Visual cortical plasticity following unilateral sensorimotor cortical lesions in the neonatal rat

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Previous work has shown that unilateral sensorimotor cortex (SMC) lesions in newborn rats resulted in an apparent shift of the motor cortex map in the spared hemisphere, particularly of the hindlimb cortex. In view of such findings, the present study was initiated to determine if the visual cortex located both ipsilateral and contralateral to neonatal SMC, or contralateral to occipital cortical (OC) lesions, would show similar remodeling. Visual evoked potentials (VEPs) were used to map the visual cortex electrophysiologically. The results show an expansion of the visual cortex, in both the contralateral and ipsilateral hemisphere, into normally motor cortical areas in adult animals that had sustained unilateral neonatal unilateral SMC lesions. In contrast, similar changes were not seen within the spared visual cortex after unilateral occipital cortical lesions, suggesting that the shift in the visual map was specifically in response to the SMC lesion and was not a generalized response to neonatal cortical damage. Histological analysis showed a functional expansion in the rostral boundary of visual cortex with no corresponding cytoarchitectural alterations.

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