Background and Aims:
Rehabilitation is the most effective treatment for promoting the recovery of motor deficits after stroke. One of the most challenging experimental goals is to unambiguously link brain rewiring to motor recovery prompted by rehabilitative therapy.
Here, we investigate which facets of cortical remodeling are induced by rehabilitation by combining optical imaging and manipulation tools in a mouse model of focal stroke on the primary motor cortex. We took advantage of a rehabilitation paradigm that combines motor training and pharmacological inhibition of the contralesional primary motor cortex (M1) with Botulinum Neurotoxin E (BoNT/E), recently shown by Spalletti and colleaugues (2017) to promote a generalized motor recovery.
We demonstrate that combined rehabilitation promotes the progressive restoration of cortical motor maps and of cortical activity in parallel with the reinforcement of inter-hemispheric connectivity. Furthermore, we reveal that the increase in vascular density goes along with the stabilization of peri-infarct neural circuitry at synaptic level.
The present work provides the first evidences that rehabilitation is sufficient to promote the combined recovery of distinct structural and functional features distinctive of healthy neuronal networks.