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Optical Dissection of Intracortical Circuits Supporting Motor Recovery After Spinal Cord Injury
Cortical motor networks are a critical, if often overlooked, mediator of motor recovery after spinal cord injury (SCI). Cortical networks are required for instructing output through the corticofugal projections to the brainstem and spinal cord, and the plasticity of these networks will be indispensable for relearning how to use the spinal circuits altered by SCI or therapeutic intervention. Rehabilitation is necessary for both the recovery of corticospinal-dependent forelimb function and the commensurate reorganization of disrupted cortical motor maps. It remains unknown what the underlying circuit mechanisms are that support cortical reorganization after SCI, or whether such broad reorganization is necessary to support functional recovery. The long-term goal is to develop therapeutic interventions that take advantage of cortical plasticity to promote recovery from SCI. The expectation is that completion of the proposed research will determine the extent to which intracortical neuron plasticity underlies cortical motor map reorganization and supports functional recovery after SCI. These findings will establish a foundation upon which to build therapeutic advances and dictate which strategies are most appropriate to pursue for both acute and chronic SCI.