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Induction of bilateral plasticity in sensory cortical maps by small unilateral cortical infarcts in rats


: Otto W. Witte, as above.


Behavioural impairments caused by brain lesions show a considerable, though often incomplete, recovery. It is hypothesized that cortical and subcortical plasticity of sensory representations contribute to this recovery. In the hindpaw representation of somatosensory cortex of adult rats we investigated the effects of focal unilateral cortical lesions on remote areas. Cortical lesions with a diameter of ≈ 2 mm were induced in the parietal cortex by photothrombosis with the photosensitive dye Rose Bengal. Subsequently, animals were kept in standard cages for 7 days. On day seven, animals were anaesthetized and cutaneous receptive fields in the cortical hindpaw representations ipsi- and contralateral to the lesion were constructed from extracellular recordings of neurons in layer IV using glass microelectrodes. Receptive fields in the lesioned animals were compared to receptive fields measured in nonlesioned animals serving as controls. Quantitative analysis of receptive fields revealed a significant increase in size in the lesioned animals. This doubling in receptive field size was observed equally in the hemispheres ipsi- and contralateral to the lesion. The results indicate that the functional consequences of restricted cortical lesions are not limited to the area surrounding the lesion, but affect the cortical maps on the contralateral, nonlesioned hemisphere.