Role of adaptive plasticity in recovery of function after damage to motor cortex

Randolph J. Nudo, Erik J. Plautz, Shawn B. Frost

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

432 Scopus citations


Based upon neurophysiologic, neuroanatomic, and neuroimaging studies conducted over the past two decades, the cerebral cortex can now be viewed as functionally and structurally dynamic. More specifically, the functional topography of the motor cortex (commonly called the motor homunculus or motor map), can be modified by a variety of experimental manipulations, including peripheral or central injury, electrical stimulation, pharmacologic treatment, and behavioral experience. The specific types of behavioral experiences that induce long-term plasticity in motor maps appear to be limited to those that entail the development of new motor skills. Moreover, recent evidence demonstrates that functional alterations in motor cortex organization are accompanied by changes in dendritic and synaptic structure, as well as alterations in the regulation of cortical neurotransmitter systems. These findings have strong clinical relevance as it has recently been shown that after injury to the motor cortex, as might occur in stroke, post-injury behavioral experience may play an adaptive role in modifying the functional organization of the remaining, intact cortical tissue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1000-1019
Number of pages20
JournalMuscle and Nerve
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2001


  • Motor cortex
  • Physical therapy
  • Plasticity
  • Rehabilitation
  • Stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Physiology (medical)


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