The education and re-education of the spinal cord.

TitleThe education and re-education of the spinal cord.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsWolpaw, J
JournalProgress in brain research
Date Published02/2006
Keywordsbehavior, conditioning, Learning, Memory, plasticity, Spinal Cord, spinal cord injury

In normal life, activity-dependent plasticity occurs in the spinal cord as well as in the brain. Like CNS plasticity elsewhere, this spinal cord plasticity can occur at many neuronal and synaptic sites and by a variety of mechanisms. Spinal cord plasticity is prominent in postnatal development and contributes to acquisition of standard behaviors such as locomotion and rapid withdrawal from pain. Later on in life, spinal cord plasticity contributes to acquisition and maintenance of specialized motor skills, and to compensation for the peripheral and central changes associated with aging, disease, and trauma. Mastery of even the simplest behaviors is accompanied by complex spinal and supraspinal plasticity. This complexity is necessary, to preserve the full roster of behaviors, and is also inevitable, due to the ubiquity of activity-dependent plasticity in the CNS. Careful investigation of spinal cord plasticity is essential for understanding motor skills; and, because of the relative simplicity and accessibility of the spinal cord, is a logical and convenient starting point for exploring skill acquisition. Appropriate induction and guidance of activity-dependent plasticity in the spinal cord is likely to be a key part of the realization of effective new rehabilitation methods for spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, and other chronic motor disorders.


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