Nature communications

Remodelling of spared proprioceptive circuit involving a small number of neurons supports functional recovery.

PMID 25597627


Studies show that limited functional recovery can be achieved by plasticity and adaptation of the remaining circuitry in partial injuries in the central nervous system, although the new circuits that arise in these contexts have not been clearly identified or characterized. We show here that synaptic contacts from dorsal root ganglions to a small number of dorsal column neurons, a caudal extension of nucleus gracilis, whose connections to the thalamus are spared in a precise cervical level 1 lesion, underwent remodeling over time. These connections support proprioceptive functional recovery in a conditioning lesion paradigm, as silencing or eliminating the remodelled circuit completely abolishes the recovered proprioceptive function of the hindlimb. Furthermore, we show that blocking repulsive Wnt signalling increases axon plasticity and synaptic connections that drive greater functional recovery.