• dorsal columns;
  • intracortical microstimulation;
  • plasticity;
  • Rattus norvegicus


Understanding brain reorganization following long-term spinal cord injuries is important for optimizing recoveries based on residual function as well as developing brain-controlled assistive devices. Although it has been shown that the motor cortex undergoes partial reorganization within a few weeks after peripheral and spinal cord injuries, it is not known if the motor cortex of rats is capable of large-scale reorganization after longer recovery periods. Here we determined the organization of the rat (Rattus norvegicus) motor cortex at 5 or more months after chronic lesions of the spinal cord at cervical levels using intracortical microstimulation. The results show that, in the rats with the lesions, stimulation of neurons in the de-efferented forelimb motor cortex no longer evokes movements of the forelimb. Instead, movements of the body parts in the adjacent representations, namely the whiskers and neck were evoked. In addition, at many sites, movements of the ipsilateral forelimb were observed at threshold currents. The extent of representations of the eye, jaw and tongue movements was unaltered by the lesion. Thus, large-scale reorganization of the motor cortex leads to complete filling-in of the de-efferented cortex by neighboring representations following long-term partial spinal cord injuries at cervical levels in adult rats.