Acute plasticity in the human somatosensory cortex following amputation

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WE studied a patient after amputation of an arm and found that in less than 24 h stimuli applied on the ipsilateral face were referred in a precise, topographically organized, modality-specific manner to distinct points on the phantom. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) performed one month later showed that brush-evoked activity in the brain demonstrates objective signal changes which correlate with perceptual changes in the phantom hand. This finding in humans corresponds to the observations of immediate plasticity in cortical pathways described in animals, including primates. The results suggest that reorganization of sensory pathways occurs very soon after amputation in humans, potentially due to the unmasking of ordinarily silent inputs rather than sprouting of new axon terminals.

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