Reshaping the cortical motor map by unmasking latent intracortical connections

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Science  22 Feb 1991:
Vol. 251, Issue 4996, pp. 944-947
DOI: 10.1126/science.2000496


The primary motor cortex (MI) contains a map organized so that contralateral limb or facial movements are elicited by electrical stimulation within separate medial to lateral MI regions. Within hours of a peripheral nerve transection in adult rats, movements represented in neighboring MI areas are evoked from the cortical territory of the affected body part. One potential mechanism for reorganization is that adjacent cortical regions expand when preexisting lateral excitatory connections are unmasked by decreased intracortical inhibition. During pharmacological blockade of cortical inhibition in one part of the MI representation, movements of neighboring representations were evoked by stimulation in adjacent MI areas. These results suggest that intracortical connections form a substrate for reorganization of cortical maps and that inhibitory circuits are critically placed to maintain or readjust the form of cortical motor representations.

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