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.
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.
stroke; plasticity; recovery; rehabilitation
Background and Purpose
Our goal was to investigate whether certain metabolites, specific to neurons, glial cells, or the neuronal-glial neurotransmission system, in primary motor cortices (M1), are altered and correlated with clinical motor severity in chronic stroke.
Fourteen survivors of a single ischemic stroke located outside the M1 and 14 age-matched healthy control subjects were included. At >6 months after stroke, N-acetylaspartate, myo-inositol, and glutamate/glutamine were measured using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (in-plane resolution=5×5 mm2) in radiologically normal-appearing gray matter of the hand representation area, identified by functional MRI, in each M1. Metabolite concentrations and analyses of metabolite correlations within M1 were determined. Relationships between metabolite concentrations and arm motor impairment were also evaluated.
The stroke survivors showed lower N-acetylaspartate and higher myo-inositol across ipsilesional and contral-esional M1 compared with control subjects. Significant correlations between N-acetylaspartate and glutamate/glutamine were found in either M1. Ipsilesional N-acetylaspartate and glutamate/glutamine were positively correlated with arm motor impairment and contralesional N-acetylaspartate with time after stroke.
Our preliminary data demonstrated significant alterations of neuronal-glial interactions in spared M1 with the ipsilesional alterations related to stroke severity and contralesional alterations to stroke duration. Thus, MR spectroscopy might be a sensitive method to quantify relevant metabolite changes after stroke and consequently increase our knowledge of the factors leading from these changes in spared motor cortex to motor impairment after stroke.
1H-MRS; motor impairment; plasticity; primary motor cortex; stroke; plasticity
This study describes the pattern of interhemispheric connections of the ventral premotor cortex (PMv) distal forelimb representation (DFL) in squirrel monkeys. Our objectives were to describe qualitatively and quantitatively the connections of PMv with contralateral cortical areas. Intracortical microstimulation techniques (ICMS) guided the injection of the neuronal tract tracers biotinylated dextran amine or Fast blue into PMv DFL. We classified the interhemispheric connections of PMv into three groups. Major connections were found in the contralateral PMv and supplementary motor area (SMA). Intermediate interhemispheric connections were found in the rostral portion of the primary motor cortex, the frontal area immediately rostral and ventral to PMv (FR), cingulate motor areas (CMAs), and dorsal premotor cortex (PMd). Minor connections were found inconsistently across cases in the anterior operculum (AO), posterior operculum/inferior parietal cortex (PO/IP), and posterior parietal cortex (PP), areas that consistently show connections with PMv in the ipsilateral hemisphere. Within-case comparisons revealed that the percentage of PMv connections with contralateral SMA and PMd are higher than the percentage of PMv connections with these areas in the ipsilateral hemisphere; percentages of PMv connections with contralateral M1 rostral, FR, AO, and the primary somatosensory cortex are lower than percentages of PMv connections with these areas in the ipsilateral hemisphere. These studies increase our knowledge of the pattern of interhemispheric connection of PMv. They help to provide an anatomical foundation for understanding PMv’s role in motor control of the hand and interhemispheric interactions that may underlie the coordination of bimanual movements.
connections; contralateral; interhemispheric; monkey; neuroanatomy; premotor cortex
The past decade of neuroscience research has provided considerable evidence that the adult brain can undergo substantial reorganization following injury. For example, following an ischemic lesion, such as occurs following a stroke, there is a cascade of molecular, genetic, physiological and anatomical events that allows the remaining structures in the brain to reorganize. Often, these events are associated with recovery, suggesting that they contribute to it. Indeed, the term plasticity in stroke research has had a positive connotation historically. But more recently, efforts have been made to differentiate beneficial from detrimental changes. These notions are timely now that neurorehabilitative research is developing novel treatments to modulate, increase, or inhibit plasticity in targeted brain regions. We will review basic principles of plasticity and some of the new and exciting approaches that are currently being investigated to shape plasticity following injury in the central nervous system.
Cortex; Stimulation; Plasticity; Recovery; Rehabilitation; Stroke
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is thought to contribute to both neuroprotection and angiogenesis after stroke. While increased expression of VEGF has been demonstrated in animal models after experimental ischemia, these studies have focused almost exclusively on the infarct and peri-infarct regions. The present study investigated the association of VEGF to neurons in remote cortical areas at three days after an infarct in primary motor cortex (M1). Although these remote areas are outside of the direct influence of the ischemic injury, remote plasticity has been implicated in recovery of function. For this study, intracortical microstimulation techniques identified primary and premotor cortical areas in a non-human primate. A focal ischemic infarct was induced in the M1 hand representation, and neurons and VEGF protein were identified using immunohistochemical procedures. Stereological techniques quantitatively assessed neuronal-VEGF association in the infarct and peri-infarct regions, M1 hindlimb, M1 orofacial, and ventral premotor hand representations, as well as non-motor control regions. The results indicate that VEGF protein significantly increased association to neurons in specific remote cortical areas outside of the infarct and peri-infarct regions. The increased association of VEGF to neurons was restricted to cortical areas that are functionally and/or behaviorally related to the area of infarct. There was no significant increase in M1 orofacial region or in non-motor control regions. We hypothesize that enhancement of neuronal VEGF in these functionally related remote cortical areas may be involved in recovery of function after stroke, through either neuroprotection or the induction of remote angiogenesis.
VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor); neuron; stroke; focal cerebral ischemia; stereology; neuroprotection
Background and Purpose
Residual motor deficits frequently linger after stroke. Search for newer effective strategies to promote functional recovery is ongoing. Brain stimulation, as a means of directing adaptive plasticity, is appealing. Animal studies and Phase I and II trials in humans have indicated safety, feasibility, and efficacy of combining rehabilitation and concurrent invasive cortical stimulation. However, a recent Phase III trial showed no advantage of the combination. We critically review results of various trials and discuss the factors that contributed to the distinctive result.
Summary of Review
Regarding cortical stimulation, it is important to determine the (1) location of peri-infarct representations by integrating multiple neuroanatomical and physiological techniques; (2) role of other mechanisms of stroke recovery; (3) viability of peri-infarct tissue and descending pathways; (4) lesion geometry to ensure no alteration/displacement of current density; and (5) applicability of lessons generated from noninvasive brain stimulation studies in humans. In terms of combining stimulation with rehabilitation, we should understand (1) the principle of homeostatic plasticity; (2) the effect of ongoing cortical activity and phases of learning; and (3) that subject-specific intervention may be necessary.
Future cortical stimulation trials should consider the factors that may have contributed to the peculiar results of the Phase III trial and address those in future study designs.
electrical stimulation of the brain; neuronal plasticity; recovery of function; stroke rehabilitation
Clinical and experimental data support a role for the intact cortex in recovery of function after stroke, particularly ipsilesional areas interconnected to the infarct. There is, however, little understanding of molecular events in the intact cortex, as most studies focus on the infarct and peri-infarct regions. This study investigated neuronal immunoreactivity for hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor-2 (VEGFR-2) in remote cortical areas 3 days after a focal ischemic infarct, as both HIF-1α and VEGFR-2 have been implicated in peri-infarct neuroprotection. For this study, intracortical microstimulation techniques defined primary motor (M1) and premotor areas in squirrel monkeys (genus Saimiri). An infarct was induced in the M1 hand representation, and immunohistochemical techniques identified neurons, HIF-1α and VEGFR-2. Stereologic techniques quantified the total neuronal populations and the neurons immunoreactive for HIF-1α or VEGFR-2. The results indicate that HIF-1α upregulation is confined to the infarct and peri-infarct regions. Increases in VEGFR-2 immunoreactivity occurred; however, in two remote regions: the ventral premotor hand representation and the M1 hindlimb representation. Neurons in these representations were previously shown to undergo significant increases in VEGF protein immunoreactivity, and comparison of the two data sets showed a significant correlation between levels of VEGF and VEGFR-2 immunoreactivity. Thus, while remote areas undergo a molecular response to the infarct, we hypothesize that there is a delay in the initiation of the response, which ultimately may increase the ‘window of opportunity’ for neuroprotective interventions in the intact cortex.
VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor); VEGF receptor-2 (VEGFR-2); HIF-1α (hypoxia inducible factor-1α); stroke; neuron; stereology
We report the results of controlled cortical impact (CCI) centered on the caudal forelimb area (CFA) of rat motor cortex to determine the feasibility of examining cortical plasticity in a spared cortical motor area (rostral forelimb area, RFA). We compared the effects of three CCI parameter sets (groups CCI-1, CCI-2, and CCI-3) that differed in impactor surface shape, size, and location, on behavioral recovery and RFA structural and functional integrity. Forelimb deficits in the limb contralateral to the injury were evident in all three CCI groups assessed by skilled reach and footfault tasks that persisted throughout the 35-day post-CCI assessment period. Nissl-stained coronal sections revealed that the RFA was structurally intact. Intracortical microstimulation experiments conducted at 7 weeks post-CCI demonstrated that RFA was functionally viable. However, the size of the forelimb representation decreased significantly in CCI-1 compared to the control group. Subdivided into component movement categories, there was a significant group effect for proximal forelimb movements. The RFA area reduction and reorganization are discussed in relation to possible diaschisis, and to compensatory functional behavior, respectively. Also, an inverse correlation between the anterior extent of the lesion and the size of the RFA was identified and is discussed in relation to corticocortical connectivity. The results suggest that CCI can be applied to rat CFA while sparing RFA. This CCI model can contribute to our understanding of neural plasticity in premotor cortex as a substrate for functional motor recovery.
behavioral recovery; cortical plasticity; intracortical microstimulation; motor impairment; traumatic brain injury
Background and Purpose
Although myelin-associated neurite outgrowth disinhibitors have shown promise in restoring motor function after stroke, their interactive effects with motor training have rarely been investigated. The present study examined whether a combinatorial treatment (NEP 1–40+motor rehabilitation) is more effective than either treatment alone in promoting motor recovery after focal ischemic injury.
Adult rats were assigned to one of 3 treatment groups (infarct/NEP 1–40+motor training, infarct/NEP 1–40 only, infarct/motor training only) and 2 control groups (infarct/no treatment, intact/no treatment). A focal ischemic infarct was induced by microinjecting endothelin-1 into the motor cortex. Therapeutic treatments were initiated 1 week postinfarct and included intraventricular infusion of the pharmacological agent NEP 1–40 and motor training (skilled reach task). Behavioral assessments on skilled reach, foot fault, and cylinder tests were conducted before the infarct and for 5 weeks postinfarct.
Rats demonstrated significant forelimb impairment on skilled reach and foot fault tests after the infarct. Although all infarct groups improved over time, motor training alone and NEP 1–40 alone facilitated recovery on the skilled reach task at the end of treatment Weeks 2 and 4, respectively. However, only NEP 1–40 paired with motor training facilitated recovery after 1 week of treatment in addition to treatment at Weeks 2 and 4. Finally, only the NEP 1–40+motor training group maintained a performance level equivalent to that of the intact group over the entire period of posttreatment assessment.
This study suggests that behavioral training interacts with the effects of the axonal growth promoter, NEP 1–40, and may accelerate behavioral recovery after focal cortical ischemia.
cerebral infarct; motor cortex; rehabilitation; recovery; regeneration
Therapeutic strategies to promote recovery from stroke are now beginning to utilize current knowledge of neural plasticity and the neuromodulatory role of physical rehabilitation. Current interests are also focused on adjuvant therapies that may enhance plasticity associated with recovery and rehabilitation. Amphetamine was one of the earliest pharmacological interventions and continues to show promising results as an adjuvant treatment for recovery of function in pre-clinical animal studies. This drug is a potent modulator of neurological function and cortical excitation, acting primarily through norepinephrine and dopamine mechanisms to enhance arousal and attention, and thus, to facilitate learning of motor skills. Although the results from the pre-clinical studies have been primarily positive, they have not translated well to clinical trials, which have yielded mixed results. This review addresses some of the conflicting evidence from pre-clinical studies conducted between 1982 and 2008 in order to better understand how to optimize the clinical application of amphetamine as an adjuvant therapy for stroke recovery. Among many of the factors that relate to differences in outcome, it is likely that both amphetamine dose and the timing of the intervention with respect to the time of injury affected the outcome.
Stroke; recovery; amphetamine; physical therapy; plasticity
Previous research has demonstrated that training rats in a skilled reaching condition will induce task-related changes in the caudal forelimb area of motor cortex. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether task-specific changes can be induced within the orofacial area of the motor cortex in rats. Specifically, we compared changes of the orofacial motor cortical representation in lick-trained rats to age-matched controls. For one month, six water-restricted Sprague-Dawley rats were trained to lick an isometric force-sensing disc at increasing forces for water reinforcement. The rats were trained daily for six minutes starting with forces of 1g, and increasing over the course of the month to 10, 15, 20, 25 and finally 30 g. One to three days following the last training session, the animals were subjected to a neurophysiological motor mapping procedure in which motor representations corresponding to the orofacial and adjacent areas were defined using intracortical microstimulation (ICMS) techniques. We found no statistical difference in the topographical representation of the control (mean = 2.03 mm2) vs. trained (1.87 mm2) rats. This result indicates that force training alone is insufficient to drive changes in the size of the cortical representation. We also recorded the minimum current threshold required to elicit a motor response at each site of microstimulation. We found that the lick-trained rats had a significantly lower average minimum threshold (29.1 ± 1.0 μA) for evoking movements related to the task compared to control rats (34.6 ± 1.1 μA). These results indicate that while tongue force training alone does not produce lasting changes in the size of the orofacial cortical motor representation, tongue force training decreases the current thresholds necessary for eliciting an ICMS-evoked motor response.
oromotor; plasticity; movement; licking; tongue; operant; cortical; training
Understanding the neural bases for grip force behaviors in both normal and neurologically impaired animals is imperative prior to improving treatments and therapeutic approaches. The present paper describes a novel device for the assessment of power grip forces in squirrel monkeys. The control of grasping and object manipulation represents a vital aspect of daily living by allowing the performance of a wide variety of complex hand movements. However, following neurological injury such as stroke, these grasping behaviors are often severely affected, resulting in persistent impairments in strength, grip force modulation and kinematic hand control. While there is a significant clinical focus on rehabilitative strategies to address these issues, there exists the need for translational animal models. In the study presented here, we describe a simple grip force device designed for use in non-human primates, which provides detailed quantitative information regarding distal grip force dynamics. Adult squirrel monkeys were trained to exceed a specific grip force threshold, which was rewarded with a food pellet. One of these subjects then received an infarct of the M1 hand representation area. Results suggest that the device provides detailed and reliable information on grip behaviors in healthy monkeys and can detect deficits in grip dynamics in monkeys with cortical lesions (significantly longer release times). Understanding the physiological and neuroanatomical aspects of grasping function following neurological injury may lead to more effective rehabilitative interventions.
Grip force; power grip; monkey; stroke; hand; primates
A decision algorithm was required to evaluate the first half of a cooperative agreement for preclinical trials to optimize medical device parameters to enhance stroke recovery. Continued funding was contingent upon the midpoint evaluation, called the milestone decision. We developed an algorithm, which summarized our rodent and primate model results. Primary outcomes weighed more heavily than secondary outcomes, and the primate model more heavily than rodent models. By controlling the type I error for this milestone decision, the probability of correctly discontinuing the study if treatment was not beneficial was high (>0.84). Similar algorithms may be adapted for other milestone-driven projects.
cooperative agreement; milestones; translational research; type I error
Small lesions to rostral versus caudal portions of the hand representation in the primary motor cortex (M1) produce different behavioral deficits. The goal of the present study was to determine if rehabilitative training has similar effects on functional topography of the spared M1 after rostral versus previously reported caudal M1 lesions.
Following a lesion to the rostral M1 hand area, monkeys were trained for 1 h/day for 30 days to retrieve food pellets from small wells using their impaired hand. Electrophysiological maps of the M1 were derived in anesthetized monkeys before infarct and after rehabilitative training using intracortical microstimulation.
After a lesion to the rostral M1 and rehabilitative training, the size of the spared hand representation decreased 1.2%. This change is not statistically different from the 9% increase seen after caudal M1 lesion and rehabilitative training (P > 0.2).
Postlesion training spares peri-infarct hand area regardless of whether the lesion is in the rostral or caudal M1.
Recovery; Rehabilitation; Cortical plasticity; Stroke
A focal injury within the cerebral cortex results in functional reorganization within the spared cortex through time-dependent metabolic and physiological reactions. Physiological changes are also associated with specific post-injury behavioral experiences. Knowing how these factors interact can be beneficial in planning rehabilitative intervention after a stroke. The purpose of this study was to assess the functional impact of delaying the rehabilitative behavioral experience upon movement representations within the primary motor cortex (M1) in an established nonhuman primate, ischemic infarct model. Five adult squirrel monkeys were trained on a motor-skill task prior to and 1 month after an experimental ischemic infarct was induced in M1. Movement representations of the hand were derived within M1 using standard electrophysiological procedures prior to the infarct and again one and two months after the infarct. The results of this study show that even though recovery of motor skills was similar to that of a previous study in squirrel monkeys after early training, unlike early training, delayed training did not result in maintenance of the spared hand representation within the M1 peri-infarct hand area. Instead, delaying training resulted in a large decrease in spared hand representation during the spontaneous recovery period that persisted following the delayed training. In addition, delayed training resulted in an increase of simultaneously evoked movements that are typically independent. These results indicate that post-injury behavioral experience, such as motor skill training, may modulate peri-infarct cortical plasticity in different ways in the acute versus chronic stages following stroke.
Squirrel monkeys; Stroke rehabilitation; Recovery of function; Motor learning; ICMS
The present study describes the pattern of connections of the ventral premotor cortex (PMv) with various cortical regions of the ipsilateral hemisphere in adult squirrel monkeys. Particularly, we 1) quantified the proportion of inputs and outputs that the PMv distal forelimb representation shares with other areas in the ipsilateral cortex and 2) defined the pattern of PMv connections with respect to the location of the distal forelimb representation in primary motor cortex (M1), primary somatosensory cortex (S1) and the supplementary motor area (SMA). Intracortical microstimulation techniques (ICMS) were used in four experimentally naïve monkeys to identify M1, PMv and SMA forelimb movement representations. Multi-unit recording techniques and myelin staining were used to identify the S1 hand representation. Then, biotinylated dextran amine (BDA; 10000MW) was injected in the center of the PMv distal forelimb representation. Following tangential sectioning, the distribution of BDA-labeled cell bodies and terminal boutons was documented. In M1, labeling followed a rostro-lateral pattern, largely leaving the caudo-medial M1 unlabeled. Quantification of somata and terminals showed that two areas share major connections with PMv: M1 and frontal areas immediately rostral to PMv, designated as frontal rostral area (FR). Connections with this latter region have not been described previously. Moderate connections were found with PMd, SMA, anterior operculum and posterior operculum/inferior parietal area. Minor connections were found with diverse areas of the precentral and parietal cortex, including S1. No statistical difference between the proportion of inputs and outputs for any location was observed, supporting the reciprocity of PMv intracortical connections.
corticocortical; motor cortex; neuroanatomy; PMV; topographic map; ipsilateral
Our earlier efforts to document the cortical connections of the ventral premotor cortex (PMv) revealed dense connections with a field rostral and lateral to PMv, an area we called the frontal rostral field (FR). Here, we present data collected in FR using electrophysiological and anatomical methods. Results show that FR contains an isolated motor representation of the forelimb that can be differentiated from PMv based on current thresholds and latencies to evoke electromyographic activity using intracortical microstimulation techniques. In addition, FR has a different pattern of cortical connections compared with PMv. Together, these data support that FR is an additional, previously undescribed motor-related area in squirrel monkeys.
frontal lateral cortex; frontal rostral area; intracortical microstimulation, motor control; neuroanatomy; ventral premotor cortex
It is generally assumed that proprioceptive feedback plays a crucial role in limb posture and movement. However, the role of afferent signals from extraocular muscles (EOM) in the control of eye movement has been a matter of continuous debate. These muscles have atypical sensory receptors in several species and it has been proposed that they are not supported by stretch reXexes. We recorded electromyographic activity of EOM during passive rotations of the eye in sedated rats and squirrel monkeys and observed typical stretch reXexes in these muscles. Results suggest that there is a similarity in the reXexive control of limb and eye movement, despite substantial differences in their biomechanics and sensory receptors. Like in some limb skeletal muscles, the stretch reflex in EOM in the investigated species might be mediated by other length-sensitive receptors, rather than muscle spindles.
Motor control; Sensorimotor integration; Eye movement; Proprioception; Electromyogram