Recovery of motor neuron excitability after facial nerve impairment in rats

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Multiple studies have demonstrated alterations in excitability in the central nervous system after peripheral nerve injury. However, there are few reports on changes in the central nervous system after peripheral facial nerve injury. Our objective was to determine the excitability changes that occur in the facial nucleus after facial nerve impairment. The excitability changes in the facial nucleus were investigated by assessing two types of compound muscle action potentials (M and F waves) in the orbicularis oculi muscles, evoked by electrical stimulation of the zygomatic branch of the facial nerve. In rats, M and F waves were measured in the orbicularis oculi muscles before and every week up to 8 weeks after the application of nerve compression under anesthesia. M and F waves disappeared after nerve compression, only to reappear 2 weeks later, although M-wave amplitude was decreased and the latencies of both waves were delayed. Thereafter, these waves recovered gradually. During the recovery period, the F/M wave amplitude ratio, which is an indicator of facial nucleus excitability, significantly increased on the impaired side but not on the intact side. This increase was most prominent within 3 weeks; thereafter, the ratio gradually decreased and reached the levels recorded before facial nerve impairment by 7 weeks. Facial nerve impairment leads to hyperexcitability of the facial nucleus during the recovery period.

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