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Corticospinal circuit plasticity in motor rehabilitation from spinal cord injury.
Restoring corticospinal function after spinal cord injury is a significant challenge as the corticospinal tract elicits no substantive, spontaneous regeneration, and its interruption leaves a permanent deficit. The corticospinal circuit serves multiple motor and sensory functions within the mammalian nervous system as the direct link between isocortex and spinal cord. Maturation of the corticospinal circuit involves the refinement of projections within the spinal cord and a subsequent refinement of motor maps within the cortex. The plasticity of these cortical motor maps mirrors the acquisition of skilled motor learning, and both the maps and motor skills are disrupted following injury to the corticospinal tract. The motor cortex exhibits the capacity to incorporate changes in corticospinal projections induced by both spontaneous and therapeutic-mediated plasticity of corticospinal axons through appropriate rehabilitation. An understanding of the mechanisms of corticospinal plasticity in motor learning will undoubtedly help inform strategies to improve motor rehabilitation after spinal cord injury.