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Patterns of cortical reorganization in the adult marmoset after a cervical spinal cord injury

Bowes, C;Burish, M;Cerkevich, C;Kaas, J;

In the present study, we used microelectrode recordings of multiunit responses to evaluate patterns of the reactivation of somatosensory cortex after sensory loss produced by spinal cord lesions in the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus). These New World monkeys have become a popular model in studies of cortical organization and function. Primary somatosensory cortex and adjoining somatosensory areas can become extensively deactivated by lesions of somatosensory afferents as they ascend in the dorsal columns of the cervical spinal cord. Six to 7 weeks after complete lesions of the cuneate fasciculus subserving the forelimb at cervical levels 5-6, the hand region in contralateral areas 3b and 1 was reactivated by inputs from the forelimb, but excluded representations of some or all digits. In a similar manner, recording sites from the forelimb region of areas 2-5 responded to parts of the forelimb but not to digits after an extensive lesion of the contralateral cuneate fasciculus at C5-C6. Lesions that damaged only the gracile fasciculus or a small percentage of the cuneate fasciculus did not produce changes in the gross hand representation in contralateral areas 3b, 3a, 1, and 2. Finally, a complete but lower lesion of the cuneate fasciculus at C8 produced some abnormalities in the reactivation, but the digits were represented. The results indicate that areas 3a, 3b, 1, and 2-5 of the somatosensory cortex are extensively reactivated after large, apparently complete lesions of the contralateral cuneate fasciculus, but afferents from the digits may not contribute to their reactivation.