Cortical Plasticity: Use‐dependent Remodelling


Sensory representations in the cortex have been shown to reorganize after alterations of peripheral input. Such reorganization may be induced by injury or through behavioural training.

Keywords: phantom limb; topographic map; critical period; reorganization; long term potentiation; glutamate; GABA

Figure 1.

Schematic representation of how frequencies are represented across the horizontal dimension of cortex. Similar to playing the keys sequentially on a piano, auditory cortex represents lower to higher frequencies in a precise order. Thus the auditory cortex is often referred to as being ‘tontotopically’ organized. The vertical dimension represents columns of cells devoted to the processing of a given frequency, thus the frequency representation changes in the horizontal, but not the vertical, dimension of cortex.

Figure 2.

A lateral view of a macaque monkey brain and face indicating the region in the brain that would normally represent the hand and then deafferented, which is labelled the deafferented zone and indicated on the view of the brain. Over time the deafferented region comes to represent the portion of the lateral face and chin indicated as a grey area on the face. The face has been made transparent so that the underlying brain is visible. The view shown is for illustrative simplicity; in reality the left hemisphere of the brain would represent the right lateral.

Figure 3.

Right lateral view of the head and face with the underlying brain shown. The grey area on the brain indicates the normal location of the hand representation which was deafferented. Interestingly, touch to the region of the head and face that is now represented in the grey area (cf. Figure ) elicits sensation to the digits 1(thumb) to 5 (little finger) of the hand and palm. Other conventions are as in Figure .



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Further Reading

Ergenzinger ER, Glasier MM, Hahm JO and Pons TP (1998) Cortically induced thalamic plasticity in the primate somatosensory system. Nature Neuroscience 1: 226–229.

Kaas JH and Pons TP (in press) Plasticity of Mature and Developing Somatosensory Systems. In: Selzer ME (ed.) Textbook of Neural Repair and Rehabilitation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Recanzone GH, Merzenich MM, Jenkins WM, Grajski KA and Dinse H (1992) Topographic reorganization of the hand representation in cortical area 3b of owl monkeys trained in a frequency‐discrimination task. Journal of Neurophysiology 67: 1031–1056.

Woods TM, Cusick CG, Pons TP, Taub E and Jones EG (2000) Progressive transneuronal changes in the brainstem and thalamus after long‐term dorsal rhizotomies in adult macaque monkeys. Journal of Neuroscience 20: 3864–3899.

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How to Cite close
Ergenzinger, Edward R, and Pons, Tim P(Sep 2005) Cortical Plasticity: Use‐dependent Remodelling. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0004056]