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1.  Influence of Inflammation on Poststroke Plasticity 
Neural Plasticity  2013;2013:258582.
Age-related brain injuries including stroke are a leading cause of morbidity and mental disability worldwide. Most patients who survive stroke experience some degree of recovery. The restoration of lost functions can be explained by neuronal plasticity, understood as brain ability to reorganize and remodel itself in response to changed environmental requirements. However, stroke triggers a cascade of events which may prevent the normal development of the plastic changes. One of them may be inflammatory response initiated immediately after stroke, which has been found to contribute to neuronal injury. Some recent evidence though has suggested that inflammatory reaction can be also neuroprotective. This paper attempts to discuss the influence of poststroke inflammatory response on brain plasticity and stroke outcome. We also describe the recent anti-inflammatory strategies that have been effective for recovery in experimental stroke.
PMCID: PMC3595668  PMID: 23533818
2.  Neural bases of recovery after brain injury 
Substantial data have accumulated over the past decade indicating that the adult brain is capable of substantial structural and functional reorganization after stroke. While some limited recovery is known to occur spontaneously, especially within the first month post-stroke, there is currently significant optimism that new interventions based on the modulation of neuroplasticity mechanisms will provide greater functional benefits in a larger population of stroke survivors. To place this information in the context of current thinking about brain plasticity, this review outlines the basic theories of why spontaneous recovery occurs, and introduces important principles to explain the effects of post-stroke behavioral experience on neural plasticity.
Learning outcomes
Readers will be able to: (a) explain the three classic theories to explain spontaneous recovery after focal brain injury, (b) explain the neurophysiological effects of post-injury rehabilitative therapy on functional organization in motor cortex, (c) readers will be able to describe some of the variables that impact the effects of post-stroke behavioral experience on neuroplasticity, and (d) readers will be able to explain some of the current laboratory-based approaches to modifying brain circuits after stroke that might soon be translated to human application.
PMCID: PMC3162095  PMID: 21600588
stroke; plasticity; recovery; rehabilitation
3.  Experience-dependent neural plasticity in the adult damaged brain 
Behavioral experience is at work modifying the structure and function of the brain throughout the lifespan, but it has a particularly dramatic influence after brain injury. This review summarizes recent findings on the role of experience in reorganizing the adult damaged brain, with a focus on findings from rodent stroke models of chronic upper extremity (hand and arm) impairments. A prolonged and widespread process of repair and reorganization of surviving neural circuits is instigated by injury to the adult brain. When experience impacts these same neural circuits, it interacts with degenerative and regenerative cascades to shape neural reorganization and functional outcome. This is evident in the cortical plasticity resulting from compensatory reliance on the “good” forelimb in rats with unilateral sensorimotor cortical infarcts. Behavioral interventions (e.g., rehabilitative training) can drive functionally beneficial neural reorganization in the injured hemisphere. However, experience can have both behaviorally beneficial and detrimental effects. The interactions between experience-dependent and injury-induced neural plasticity are complex, time-dependent, and varied with age and other factors. A better understanding of these interactions is needed to understand how to optimize brain remodeling and functional outcome.
Learning outcomes
Readers will be able to describe (a) experience effects that are maladaptive for behavioral outcome after brain damage, (b) manipulations of experience that drive functionally beneficial neural plasticity, and (c) reasons why rehabilitative training effects can be expected to vary with age, training duration and timing.
PMCID: PMC3162127  PMID: 21620413
neurorehabilitation; cortical plasticity; learned non-use; skill learning; stroke; animal models
4.  Neural Plasticity After Spinal Cord Injury 
Current pharmaceutical design  2005;11(11):1441-1450.
Spinal cord injury (SCI) has devastating physical and socioeconomical impact. However, some degree of functional recovery is frequently observed in patients after SCI. There is considerable evidence that functional plasticity occurs in cerebral cortical maps of the body, which may account for functional recovery after injury. Additionally, these plasticity changes also occur at multiple levels including the brainstem, spinal cord, and peripheral nervous system. Although the interaction of plasticity changes at each level has been less well studied, it is likely that changes in subcortical levels contribute to cortical reorganization. Since the permeability of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) is changed, SCI-induced factors, such as cytokines and growth factors, can be involved in the plasticity events, thus affecting the final functional recovery after SCI. The mechanism of plasticity probably differs depending on the time frame. The reorganization that is rapidly induced by acute injury is likely based on unmasking of latent synapses resulting from modulation of neurotransmitters, while the long-term changes after chronic injury involve changes of synaptic efficacy modulated by long-term potentiation and axonal regeneration and sprouting. The functional significance of neural plasticity after SCI remains unclear. It indicates that in some situations plasticity changes can result in functional improvement, while in other situations they may have harmful consequences. Thus, further understanding of the mechanisms of plasticity could lead to better ways of promoting useful reorganization and preventing undesirable consequences.
PMCID: PMC3562709  PMID: 15853674
Spinal Cord Injury; Plasticity; Reorganization; Cortex; Blood-Brain Barrier
5.  Recovery after brain injury: mechanisms and principles 
The past 20 years have represented an important period in the development of principles underlying neuroplasticity, especially as they apply to recovery from neurological injury. It is now generally accepted that acquired brain injuries, such as occur in stroke or trauma, initiate a cascade of regenerative events that last for at least several weeks, if not months. Many investigators have pointed out striking parallels between post-injury plasticity and the molecular and cellular events that take place during normal brain development. As evidence for the principles and mechanisms underlying post-injury neuroplasticity has been gleaned from both animal models and human populations, novel approaches to therapeutic intervention have been proposed. One important theme has persisted as the sophistication of clinicians and scientists in their knowledge of neuroplasticity mechanisms has grown: behavioral experience is the most potent modulator of brain plasticity. While there is substantial evidence for this principle in normal, healthy brains, the injured brain is particularly malleable. Based on the quantity and quality of motor experience, the brain can be reshaped after injury in either adaptive or maladaptive ways. This paper reviews selected studies that have demonstrated the neurophysiological and neuroanatomical changes that are triggered by motor experience, by injury, and the interaction of these processes. In addition, recent studies using new and elegant techniques are providing novel perspectives on the events that take place in the injured brain, providing a real-time window into post-injury plasticity. These new approaches are likely to accelerate the pace of basic research, and provide a wealth of opportunities to translate basic principles into therapeutic methodologies.
PMCID: PMC3870954  PMID: 24399951
motor cortex; stroke; traumatic brain injury; axonal sprouting; motor learning; recovery
6.  Cortical and subcortical plasticity in the brains of humans, primates, and rats after damage to sensory afferents in the dorsal columns of the spinal cord 
Experimental neurology  2007;209(2):407-416.
The failure of injured axons to regenerate following spinal cord injury deprives brain neurons of their normal sources of activation. These injuries also result in the reorganization of affected areas of the central nervous system that is thought to drive both the ensuing recovery of function and the formation of maladaptive neuronal circuitry. Better understanding of the physiological consequences of novel synaptic connections produced by injury and the mechanisms that control their formation are important to the development of new successful strategies for the treatment of patients with spinal cord injuries. Here we discuss the anatomical, physiological and behavioral changes that take place in response to injury-induced plasticity after damage to the dorsal column pathway in rats and monkeys. Complete section of the dorsal columns of the spinal cord at a high cervical level in monkeys and rats interrupts the ascending axon branches of low threshold mechanoreceptor afferents subserving the forelimb and the rest of the lower body. Such lesions render the corresponding part of the somatotopic representation of primary somatosensory cortex totally unresponsive to tactile stimuli. There are also behavioral consequences of the sensory loss, including an impaired use of the hand/forelimb in manipulating small objects. In monkeys, if some of the afferents from the hand remain intact after dorsal column lesions, these remaining afferents extensively reactivate portions of somatosensory cortex formerly representing the hand. This functional reorganization develops over a postoperative period of one month, during which hand use rapidly improves. These recoveries appear to be mediated, at least in part, by the sprouting of preserved afferents within the cuneate nucleus of the dorsal column-trigeminal complex. In rats, such functional collateral sprouting has been promoted by the post-lesion digestion of the perineuronal net in the cuneate nucleus. Thus, this and other therapeutic strategies have the potential of enhancing sensorimotor recoveries after spinal cord injuries in humans.
PMCID: PMC2268113  PMID: 17692844
7.  Neurorehabilitation using the virtual reality based Rehabilitation Gaming System: methodology, design, psychometrics, usability and validation 
Stroke is a frequent cause of adult disability that can lead to enduring impairments. However, given the life-long plasticity of the brain one could assume that recovery could be facilitated by the harnessing of mechanisms underlying neuronal reorganization. Currently it is not clear how this reorganization can be mobilized. Novel technology based neurorehabilitation techniques hold promise to address this issue. Here we describe a Virtual Reality (VR) based system, the Rehabilitation Gaming System (RGS) that is based on a number of hypotheses on the neuronal mechanisms underlying recovery, the structure of training and the role of individualization. We investigate the psychometrics of the RGS in stroke patients and healthy controls.
We describe the key components of the RGS and the psychometrics of one rehabilitation scenario called Spheroids. We performed trials with 21 acute/subacute stroke patients and 20 healthy controls to study the effect of the training parameters on task performance. This allowed us to develop a Personalized Training Module (PTM) for online adjustment of task difficulty. In addition, we studied task transfer between physical and virtual environments. Finally, we assessed the usability and acceptance of the RGS as a rehabilitation tool.
We show that the PTM implemented in RGS allows us to effectively adjust the difficulty and the parameters of the task to the user by capturing specific features of the movements of the arms. The results reported here also show a consistent transfer of movement kinematics between physical and virtual tasks. Moreover, our usability assessment shows that the RGS is highly accepted by stroke patients as a rehabilitation tool.
We introduce a novel VR based paradigm for neurorehabilitation, RGS, which combines specific rehabilitative principles with a psychometric evaluation to provide a personalized and automated training. Our results show that the RGS effectively adjusts to the individual features of the user, allowing for an unsupervised deployment of individualized rehabilitation protocols.
PMCID: PMC2949710  PMID: 20860808
8.  Functional MRI and Diffusion Tensor Imaging of Brain Reorganization After Experimental Stroke 
Translational Stroke Research  2012;3(1):36-43.
The potential of the adult brain to reorganize after ischemic injury is critical for functional recovery and provides a significant target for therapeutic strategies to promote brain repair. Despite the accumulating evidence of brain plasticity, the interaction and significance of morphological and physiological modifications in post-stroke brain tissue remain mostly unclear. Neuroimaging techniques such as functional MRI (fMRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) enable in vivo assessment of the spatial and temporal pattern of functional and structural changes inside and outside ischemic lesion areas. This can contribute to the elucidation of critical aspects in post-stroke brain remodeling. Task/stimulus-related fMRI, resting-state fMRI, or pharmacological MRI enables direct or indirect measurement of neuronal activation, functional connectivity, or neurotransmitter system responses, respectively. DTI allows estimation of the structural integrity and connectivity of white matter tracts. Together, these MRI methods provide an unprecedented means to (a) measure longitudinal changes in tissue structure and function close by and remote from ischemic lesion areas, (b) evaluate the organizational profile of neural networks after stroke, and (c) identify degenerative and restorative processes that affect post-stroke functional outcome. Besides, the availability of MRI in clinical institutions as well as research laboratories provides an optimal basis for translational research on stroke recovery. This review gives an overview of the current status and perspectives of fMRI and DTI applications to study brain reorganization in experimental stroke models.
PMCID: PMC3284658  PMID: 22408692
Brain plasticity; Functional connectivity; Diffusion tensor imaging; Functional MRI; Neuronal network; Stroke
9.  Synaptic Plasticity, Neurogenesis, and Functional Recovery after Spinal Cord Injury 
Spinal cord injury research has greatly expanded in recent years, but our understanding of the mechanisms that underlie the functional recovery that can occur over the weeks and months following the initial injury, is far from complete. To grasp the scope of the problem, it is important to begin by defining the sensorimotor pathways that might be involved by a spinal injury. This is done in the rodent and nonhuman primate, which are two of the most commonly used animal models in basic and translational spinal injury research. Many of the better known experimentally induced models are then reviewed in terms of the pathways they involve and the reorganization and recovery that have been shown to follow. The better understood neuronal mechanisms mediating such post-injury plasticity, including dendritic spine growth and axonal sprouting, are then examined.
PMCID: PMC2897707  PMID: 19307422
spinal cord injury; reorganization; behavioral recovery; sensorimotor pathways; adult neurogenesis
10.  Microglial Involvement in Neuroplastic Changes Following Focal Brain Ischemia in Rats 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8101.
The pathogenesis of ischemic stroke is a complex sequence of events including inflammatory reaction, for which the microglia appears to be a major cellular contributor. However, whether post-ischemic activation of microglial cells has beneficial or detrimental effects remains to be elucidated, in particular on long term brain plasticity events. The objective of our study was to determine, through modulation of post-stroke inflammatory response, to what extent microglial cells are involved in some specific events of neuronal plasticity, neurite outgrowth and synaptogenesis. Since microglia is a source of neurotrophic factors, the identification of the brain-derived neurophic factor (BDNF) as possible molecular actor involved in these events was also attempted. As a means of down-regulating the microglial response induced by ischemia, 3-aminobenzamide (3-AB, 90 mg/kg, i.p.) was used to inhibit the poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 (PARP-1). Indeed, PARP-1 contributes to the activation of the transcription factor NF-kB, which is essential to the upregulation of proinflammatory genes, in particular responsible for microglial activation/proliferation. Experiments were conducted in rats subjected to photothrombotic ischemia which leads to a strong and early microglial cells activation/proliferation followed by an infiltration of macrophages within the cortical lesion, events evaluated at serial time points up to 1 month post-ictus by immunostaining for OX-42 and ED-1. Our most striking finding was that the decrease in acute microglial activation induced by 3-AB was associated with a long term down-regulation of two neuronal plasticity proteins expression, synaptophysin (marker of synaptogenesis) and GAP-43 (marker of neuritogenesis) as well as to a significant decrease in tissue BDNF production. Thus, our data argue in favour of a supportive role for microglia in brain neuroplasticity stimulation possibly through BDNF production, suggesting that a targeted protection of microglial cells could represent an innovative approach to potentiate post-stroke neuroregeneration.
PMCID: PMC2779656  PMID: 19956568
11.  Coupling brain-machine interfaces with cortical stimulation for brain-state dependent stimulation: enhancing motor cortex excitability for neurorehabilitation 
Motor recovery after stroke is an unsolved challenge despite intensive rehabilitation training programs. Brain stimulation techniques have been explored in addition to traditional rehabilitation training to increase the excitability of the stimulated motor cortex. This modulation of cortical excitability augments the response to afferent input during motor exercises, thereby enhancing skilled motor learning by long-term potentiation-like plasticity. Recent approaches examined brain stimulation applied concurrently with voluntary movements to induce more specific use-dependent neural plasticity during motor training for neurorehabilitation. Unfortunately, such approaches are not applicable for the many severely affected stroke patients lacking residual hand function. These patients require novel activity-dependent stimulation paradigms based on intrinsic brain activity. Here, we report on such brain state-dependent stimulation (BSDS) combined with haptic feedback provided by a robotic hand orthosis. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the motor cortex and haptic feedback to the hand were controlled by sensorimotor desynchronization during motor-imagery and applied within a brain-machine interface (BMI) environment in one healthy subject and one patient with severe hand paresis in the chronic phase after stroke. BSDS significantly increased the excitability of the stimulated motor cortex in both healthy and post-stroke conditions, an effect not observed in non-BSDS protocols. This feasibility study suggests that closing the loop between intrinsic brain state, cortical stimulation and haptic feedback provides a novel neurorehabilitation strategy for stroke patients lacking residual hand function, a proposal that warrants further investigation in a larger cohort of stroke patients.
PMCID: PMC3942791  PMID: 24634650
brain state-dependent stimulation; activity-dependent stimulation; closed-loop stimulation; brain-computer interface; brain-machine interface; brain-robot interface; transcranial magnetic stimulation; neurorehabilitation
12.  Brain Plasticity and Disease: A Matter of Inhibition 
Neural Plasticity  2011;2011:286073.
One major goal in Neuroscience is the development of strategies promoting neural plasticity in the adult central nervous system, when functional recovery from brain disease and injury is limited. New evidence has underscored a pivotal role for cortical inhibitory circuitries in regulating plasticity both during development and in adulthood. This paper summarizes recent findings showing that the inhibition-excitation balance controls adult brain plasticity and is at the core of the pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental disorders like autism, Down syndrome, and Rett syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3134991  PMID: 21766040
13.  Experience--a double edged sword for restorative neural plasticity after brain damage 
Future neurology  2008;3(2):189-198.
During the time period following damage, the brain undergoes widespread reorganizational processes. Manipulations of behavioral experience can be potent therapeutic interventions for shaping this reorganization and enhancing long-term functional outcome. Recovery of function is a major concern for survivors of central nervous system damage and management of post-injury rehabilitation is increasingly becoming a topic of chief importance. Animal research, the focus of this review, suggests that, in the absence of behavioral manipulations, the brain is unlikely to realize its full potential for supporting function. However, experiences also have the capacity to be maladaptive for brain and behavioral function. From a treatment perspective, it may be unwise to adopt the canon of “first, do no harm” because maladaptive experiences include behaviors that individuals learn to do on their own. A better understanding of how behavioral experience interacts with brain reorganization could result in rehabilitative therapies, individually tailored and optimized for functional outcome.
PMCID: PMC2734108  PMID: 19718283
activity-dependent plasticity; regeneration; synaptogenesis; neurorehabiltation; behavioral compensation; motor skill learning; ischemia; traumatic brain injury; animal models
14.  Mouse Brain PSA-NCAM Levels Are Altered by Graded-Controlled Cortical Impact Injury 
Neural Plasticity  2012;2012:378307.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a worldwide endemic that results in unacceptably high morbidity and mortality. Secondary injury processes following primary injury are composed of intricate interactions between assorted molecules that ultimately dictate the degree of longer-term neurological deficits. One comparatively unexplored molecule that may contribute to exacerbation of injury or enhancement of recovery is the posttranslationally modified polysialic acid form of neural cell adhesion molecule, PSA-NCAM. This molecule is a critical modulator of central nervous system plasticity and reorganization after injury. In this study, we used controlled cortical impact (CCI) to produce moderate or severe TBI in the mouse. Immunoblotting and immunohistochemical analysis were used to track the early (2, 24, and 48 hour) and late (1 and 3 week) time course and location of changes in the levels of PSA-NCAM after TBI. Variable and heterogeneous short- and long-term increases or decreases in expression were found. In general, alterations in PSA-NCAM levels were seen in the cerebral cortex immediately after injury, and these reductions persisted in brain regions distal to the primary injury site, especially after severe injury. This information provides a starting point to dissect the role of PSA-NCAM in TBI-related pathology and recovery.
PMCID: PMC3403363  PMID: 22848850
15.  Pharmacologic approaches to cerebral aging and neuroplasticity: insights from the stroke model 
Brain plasticity is an intrinsic characteristic of the nervous system that allows continuous remodeling of brain functions in pathophysiological conditions. Although normal aging is associated with morphological modifications and decline of cerebral functions, brain plasticity is at least partially preserved in elderly individuals. A growing body of evidence supports the notion that cognitive enrichment and aerobic training induce a dynamic reorganization of higher cerebral functions, thereby helping to maintain operational skills in the elderly and reducing the incidence of dementia. The stroke model clearly shows that spontaneous brain plasticity exists after a lesion, even in old patients, and that it can be modulated through external factors like rehabilitation and drugs. Whether drugs can be used with the aim of modulating the effects of physical training or cognitive stimulation in healthy aged people has not been addressed until now. The risk:benefit ratio will be the key question with regard to the ethical aspect of this challenge. We review in this article the main aspects of human brain plasticity as shown in patients with stroke, the drug modulation of brain plasticity and its consequences on recovery, and finally we address the question of the influence of aging on brain plasticity.
PMCID: PMC3622470  PMID: 23576890
brain plasticity; aging; stroke; recovery; pharmacology
16.  Adaptive Neuroplastic Responses in Early and Late Hemispherectomized Monkeys 
Neural Plasticity  2012;2012:852423.
Behavioural recovery in children who undergo medically required hemispherectomy showcase the remarkable ability of the cerebral cortex to adapt and reorganize following insult early in life. Case study data suggest that lesions sustained early in childhood lead to better recovery compared to those that occur later in life. In these children, it is possible that neural reorganization had begun prior to surgery but was masked by the dysfunctional hemisphere. The degree of neural reorganization has been difficult to study systematically in human infants. Here we present a 20-year culmination of data on our nonhuman primate model (Chlorocebus sabeus) of early-life hemispherectomy in which behavioral recovery is interpreted in light of plastic processes that lead to the anatomical reorganization of the early-damaged brain. The model presented here suggests that significant functional recovery occurs after the removal of one hemisphere in monkeys with no preexisting neurological dysfunctions. Human and primate studies suggest a critical role for subcortical and brainstem structures as well as corticospinal tracts in the neuroanatomical reorganization which result in the remarkable behavioral recovery following hemispherectomy. The non-human primate model presented here offers a unique opportunity for studying the behavioral and functional neuroanatomical reorganization that underlies developmental plasticity.
PMCID: PMC3391903  PMID: 22792495
17.  Axon sprouting in adult mouse spinal cord after motor cortex stroke 
Neuroscience letters  2008;450(2):191-195.
Functional reorganization of brain cortical areas occurs following stroke in humans, and many instances of this plasticity are associated with recovery of function. Rodent studies have shown that following a cortical stroke, neurons in uninjured areas of the brain are capable of sprouting new axons into areas previously innervated by injured cortex. The pattern and extent of structural plasticity depend on the species, experimental model, and lesion localization. In this study, we examined the pattern of axon sprouting in spinal cord after a localized lesion which selectively targeted the primary motor cortex in adult mice. We subjected mice to a stereotaxic-guided photothrombotic stroke of the left motor cortex, followed 2 weeks later by an injection of the neuronal tracer biotinylated dextran amine (BDA) into the uninjured right motor cortex. BDA-positive axons originating from the uninjured motor cortex were increased in the gray matter of the right cervical spinal cord in stroke mice, compared to sham control mice. These results show that axon sprouting can occur in the spinal cord of adult wild-type mice after a localized stroke in motor cortex.
PMCID: PMC2793320  PMID: 19022347
stroke; axon sprouting; spinal cord; photothrombosis.
18.  Brain Plasticity and Behaviour in the Developing Brain 
To review general principles of brain development, identify basic principles of brain plasticity, and discuss factors that influence brain development and plasticity.
A literature review of relevant English-language manuscripts on brain development and plasticity was conducted.
Brain development progresses through a series of stages beginning with neurogenesis and progressing to neural migration, maturation, synaptogenesis, pruning, and myelin formation. Eight basic principles of brain plasticity are identified. Evidence that brain development and function is influenced by different environmental events such as sensory stimuli, psychoactive drugs, gonadal hormones, parental-child relationships, peer relationships, early stress, intestinal flora, and diet.
The development of the brain reflects more than the simple unfolding of a genetic blueprint but rather reflects a complex dance of genetic and experiential factors that shape the emerging brain. Understanding the dance provides insight into both normal and abnormal development.
PMCID: PMC3222570  PMID: 22114608
brain development; cerebral plasticity; environmental stimulation; epigenetics; développement cerebral; plasticité du cerveau; environnementaux comme les stimuli; épigénétique
19.  Noninvasive Brain Stimulation for Motor Recovery after Stroke: Mechanisms and Future Views 
Stroke Research and Treatment  2012;2012:584727.
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation and transcranial direct current stimulation are noninvasive brain stimulation (NIBS) techniques that can alter excitability of the human cortex. Considering the interhemispheric competition occurring after stroke, improvement in motor deficits can be achieved by increasing the excitability of the affected hemisphere or decreasing the excitability of the unaffected hemisphere. Many reports have shown that NIBS application improves motor function in stroke patients by using their physiological peculiarity. For continuous motor improvement, it is important to impart additional motor training while NIBS modulates the neural network between both hemispheres and remodels the disturbed network in the affected hemisphere. NIBS can be an adjuvant therapy for developed neurorehabilitation strategies for stroke patients. Moreover, recent studies have reported that bilateral NIBS can more effectively facilitate neural plasticity and induce motor recovery after stroke. However, the best NIBS pattern has not been established, and clinicians should select the type of NIBS by considering the NIBS mechanism. Here, we review the underlying mechanisms and future views of NIBS therapy and propose rehabilitation approaches for appropriate cortical reorganization.
PMCID: PMC3463193  PMID: 23050198
20.  Harnessing neuroplasticity for clinical applications 
Brain  2011;134(6):1591-1609.
Neuroplasticity can be defined as the ability of the nervous system to respond to intrinsic or extrinsic stimuli by reorganizing its structure, function and connections. Major advances in the understanding of neuroplasticity have to date yielded few established interventions. To advance the translation of neuroplasticity research towards clinical applications, the National Institutes of Health Blueprint for Neuroscience Research sponsored a workshop in 2009. Basic and clinical researchers in disciplines from central nervous system injury/stroke, mental/addictive disorders, paediatric/developmental disorders and neurodegeneration/ageing identified cardinal examples of neuroplasticity, underlying mechanisms, therapeutic implications and common denominators. Promising therapies that may enhance training-induced cognitive and motor learning, such as brain stimulation and neuropharmacological interventions, were identified, along with questions of how best to use this body of information to reduce human disability. Improved understanding of adaptive mechanisms at every level, from molecules to synapses, to networks, to behaviour, can be gained from iterative collaborations between basic and clinical researchers. Lessons can be gleaned from studying fields related to plasticity, such as development, critical periods, learning and response to disease. Improved means of assessing neuroplasticity in humans, including biomarkers for predicting and monitoring treatment response, are needed. Neuroplasticity occurs with many variations, in many forms, and in many contexts. However, common themes in plasticity that emerge across diverse central nervous system conditions include experience dependence, time sensitivity and the importance of motivation and attention. Integration of information across disciplines should enhance opportunities for the translation of neuroplasticity and circuit retraining research into effective clinical therapies.
PMCID: PMC3102236  PMID: 21482550
neuroplasticity; retraining; therapeutics; clinical assessment
21.  Sensorimotor Training in Virtual Reality: A Review 
NeuroRehabilitation  2009;25(1):29.
Recent experimental evidence suggests that rapid advancement of virtual reality (VR) technologies has great potential for the development of novel strategies for sensorimotor training in neurorehabilitation. We discuss what the adaptive and engaging virtual environments can provide for massive and intensive sensorimotor stimulation needed to induce brain reorganization. Second, discrepancies between the veridical and virtual feedback can be introduced in VR to facilitate activation of targeted brain networks, which in turn can potentially speed up the recovery process. Here we review the existing experimental evidence regarding the beneficial effects of training in virtual environments on the recovery of function in the areas of gait, upper extremity function and balance, in various patient populations. We also discuss possible mechanisms underlying these effects. We feel that future research in the area of virtual rehabilitation should follow several important paths. Imaging studies to evaluate the effects of sensory manipulation on brain activation patterns and the effect of various training parameters on long term changes in brain function are needed to guide future clinical inquiry. Larger clinical studies are also needed to establish the efficacy of sensorimotor rehabilitation using VR approaches in various clinical populations and most importantly, to identify VR training parameters that are associated with optimal transfer into real-world functional improvements.
PMCID: PMC2819065  PMID: 19713617
virtual reality; virtual environment; sensorimotor training; rehabilitation
22.  Neurophysiology of Robot-Mediated Training and Therapy: A Perspective for Future Use in Clinical Populations 
The recovery of functional movements following injury to the central nervous system (CNS) is multifaceted and is accompanied by processes occurring in the injured and non-injured hemispheres of the brain or above/below a spinal cord lesion. The changes in the CNS are the consequence of functional and structural processes collectively termed neuroplasticity and these may occur spontaneously and/or be induced by movement practice. The neurophysiological mechanisms underlying such brain plasticity may take different forms in different types of injury, for example stroke vs. spinal cord injury (SCI). Recovery of movement can be enhanced by intensive, repetitive, variable, and rewarding motor practice. To this end, robots that enable or facilitate repetitive movements have been developed to assist recovery and rehabilitation. Here, we suggest that some elements of robot-mediated training such as assistance and perturbation may have the potential to enhance neuroplasticity. Together the elemental components for developing integrated robot-mediated training protocols may form part of a neurorehabilitation framework alongside those methods already employed by therapists. Robots could thus open up a wider choice of options for delivering movement rehabilitation grounded on the principles underpinning neuroplasticity in the human CNS.
PMCID: PMC3826107  PMID: 24312073
motor cortex; spinal cord; rehabilitation; motor learning; motor adaptation
23.  Sensorimotor Plasticity after Music-Supported Therapy in Chronic Stroke Patients Revealed by Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61883.
Several recently developed therapies targeting motor disabilities in stroke sufferers have shown to be more effective than standard neurorehabilitation approaches. In this context, several basic studies demonstrated that music training produces rapid neuroplastic changes in motor-related brain areas. Music-supported therapy has been recently developed as a new motor rehabilitation intervention.
Methods and Results
In order to explore the plasticity effects of music-supported therapy, this therapeutic intervention was applied to twenty chronic stroke patients. Before and after the music-supported therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation was applied for the assessment of excitability changes in the motor cortex and a 3D movement analyzer was used for the assessment of motor performance parameters such as velocity, acceleration and smoothness in a set of diadochokinetic movement tasks. Our results suggest that the music-supported therapy produces changes in cortical plasticity leading the improvement of the subjects' motor performance.
Our findings represent the first evidence of the neurophysiological changes induced by this therapy in chronic stroke patients, and their link with the amelioration of motor performance. Further studies are needed to confirm our observations.
PMCID: PMC3629163  PMID: 23613966
24.  Models That Matter: White Matter Stroke Models 
Neurotherapeutics  2012;9(2):349-358.
Stroke is a devastating neurological disease with limited functional recovery. Stroke affects all cellular elements of the brain and impacts areas traditionally classified as both gray matter and white matter. In fact, stroke in subcortical white matter regions of the brain accounts for approximately 30% of all stroke subtypes, and white matter injury is a component of most classes of stroke damage. However, most basic scientific information in stroke cell death and neural repair relates principally to neuronal cell death and repair. Despite an emerging biological understanding of white matter development, adult function, and reorganization in inflammatory diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, little is known of the specific molecular and cellular events in white matter ischemia. This limitation stems in part from the difficulty in generating animal models of white matter stroke. This review will discuss recent progress in studies of animal models of white matter stroke, and the emerging principles of cell death and repair in oligodendrocytes, axons, and astrocytes in white matter ischemic injury.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s13311-012-0106-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3337019  PMID: 22362423
Ischemia; oligodendrocyte; oligodendrocyte progenitor cell; mouse; rat; axoglial unit; endothelin
25.  Remodeling the Brain with Behavioral Experience after Stroke 
Stroke; a journal of cerebral circulation  2008;40(3 Suppl):S136-S138.
Background and Purpose
Behavioral experience can drive brain plasticity, but we lack sufficient knowledge to optimize its therapeutic use after stroke.
We outline recent findings from rodent models of cortical stroke of how experiences interact with post-injury events to influence synaptic connectivity and functional outcome, with a focus on upper extremity function.
After unilateral cortical infarcts, behavioral experiences shape neuronal structure and activity in both hemispheres. Experiences that matter include interventions, such as skill training and constraint-like therapy, as well as unguided behaviors, such as learned nonuse and behavioral compensation. Lateralized behaviors have bihemispheric influences. Ischemic injury can alter the sensitivity of remaining neocortical neurons to behavioral change and this can have positive and negative functional effects.
Because experience is ongoing in stroke survivors, a better understanding of its interaction with brain reorganization is needed so that it can be manipulated to improve function and prevent its worsening.
PMCID: PMC2683888  PMID: 19064784
synaptic plasticity; motor rehabilitation; learned non-use; motor cortex

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