Author(s): Wolpaw JR
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Abstract Throughout normal life, activity-dependent plasticity occurs in the spinal cord as well as in brain. Like other central nervous system (CNS) plasticity, spinal cord plasticity can occur at numerous neuronal and synaptic sites and through a variety of mechanisms. Spinal cord plasticity is prominent early in life and contributes to mastery of standard behaviours like locomotion and rapid withdrawal from pain. Later in life, spinal cord plasticity has a role in acquisition and maintenance of new motor skills, and in compensation for peripheral and central changes accompanying ageing, disease and trauma. Mastery of the simplest behaviours is accompanied by complex spinal and supraspinal plasticity. This complexity is necessary, in order to preserve the complete behavioural repertoire, and is also inevitable, due to the ubiquity of activity-dependent CNS plasticity. Explorations of spinal cord plasticity are necessary for understanding motor skills. Furthermore, the spinal cord's comparative simplicity and accessibility makes it a logical starting point for studying skill acquisition. Induction and guidance of activity-dependent spinal cord plasticity will probably play an important role in realization of effective new rehabilitation methods for spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy and other motor disorders.
This article was published in Acta Physiol (Oxf)
and referenced in International Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation