Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, CEP 21941-902 Rio de Janeiro (RJ), Brazil.
Sensory information is processed in specific brain regions, and shared between the cerebral hemispheres by axons that cross the midline through the corpus callosum. However, sensory deprivation usually causes sensory losses and/or functional changes. This is the case of people who suffered limb amputation and show changes of body map organization within the somatosensory cortex (S1) of the deafferented cerebral hemisphere (contralateral to the amputated limb), as well as in the afferented hemisphere (ipsilateral to the amputated limb). Although several studies have approached these functional changes, the possible finer morphological alterations, such as those occurring in callosal axons, still remain unknown. The present work combined histochemistry, single-axon tracing and 3D microscopy to analyze the fine morphological changes that occur in callosal axons of the forepaw representation in early amputated rats. We showed that the forepaw representation in S1 was reduced in the deafferented hemisphere and expanded in the afferented side. Accordingly, after amputation, callosal axons originating from the deafferented cortex undergo an expansion of their terminal arbors with increased number of terminal boutons within the homotopic representation at the afferented cerebral hemisphere. Similar microscale structural changes may underpin the macroscale morphological and functional phenomena that characterize limb amputation in humans.
Cereb. Cortex (Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991))
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