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Stroke damage in mice overcome by training that 'rewires' brain centers
Date:2/5/2013

udies showed that although many nerve cells in the primary motor cortex were permanently damaged by the stroke, a different part of the brain called the medial premotor cortex adapted to control reaching and grasping. Zeiler says the function of the medial premotor cortex is not well-understood, but in this case it seemed to take over the functions associated with the reach-and-grab task in his experimental mice.

The researchers also report that otherwise healthy mice trained to reach and grasp pellets did not lose this ability after experiencing a stroke in the medial premotor cortex, which suggests that this part of the brain typically plays no role in those activities, and the existence of untapped levels of brain plasticity might be exploited to help human stroke victims.

Zeiler says another key finding in his research team's mouse model was a reduction of the level of parvalbumin, a protein that marks the identity and activity of inhibitory neurons that keep the brain's circuitry from overloading. With lower levels of parvalbumin in the medial premotor cortex, it appears the "brakes" are essentially off, allowing for the kind of activity required to reorganize and rewire the brain to take on new functions in this case the ability to reach and grasp.

To prove that the learned functions had moved to the medial premotor cortex in the mice, the researchers induced strokes there. Again, the new skills were lost. And again, the mice could be retrained.

The research team's next steps with their mouse model include evaluating the effect of drugs and timing of physical rehab on long-term recovery. The research could offer insight into whether humans should receive earlier and more aggressive rehab.

"In people left with deficits after a stroke, we have been asking how we can encourage the rest of the nervous system to adapt to allow true recovery," Zeiler says. "This research begins to provide us some answers."


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Contact: Stephanie Desmon
sdesmon1@jhmi.edu
410-955-8665
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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