Frontiers in neural circuits

Focal Stroke in the Developing Rat Motor Cortex Induces Age- and Experience-Dependent Maladaptive Plasticity of Corticospinal System.

PMID 28706475


Motor system development is characterized by an activity-dependent competition between ipsilateral and contralateral corticospinal tracts (CST). Clinical evidence suggests that age is crucial for developmental stroke outcome, with early lesions inducing a "maladaptive" strengthening of ipsilateral projections from the healthy hemisphere and worse motor impairment. Here, we investigated in developing rats the relation between lesion timing, motor outcome and CST remodeling pattern. We induced a focal ischemia into forelimb motor cortex (fM1) at two distinct pre-weaning ages: P14 and P21. We compared long-term motor outcome with changes in axonal sprouting of contralesional CST at red nucleus and spinal cord level using anterograde tracing. We found that P14 stroke caused a more severe long-term motor impairment than at P21, and induced a strong and aberrant contralesional CST sprouting onto denervated spinal cord and red nucleus. The mistargeted sprouting of CST, and the worse motor outcome of the P14 stroke rats were reversed by an early skilled motor training, underscoring the potential of early activity-dependent plasticity in modulating lesion outcome. Thus, changes in the mechanisms controlling CST plasticity occurring during the third postnatal week are associated with age-dependent regulation of the motor outcome after stroke.