Regeneration is abortive following adult mammalian CNS injury. We have investigated whether increasing the intrinsic growth state of primary sensory neurons by a conditioning peripheral nerve lesion increases regrowth of their central axons. After dorsal column lesions, all fibers stop at the injury site. Animals with a peripheral axotomy concomitant with the central lesion show axonal growth into the lesion but not into the spinal cord above the lesion. A preconditioning lesion 1 or 2 weeks prior to the dorsal column injury results in growth into the spinal cord above the lesion. In vitro, the growth capacity of DRG neurite is also increased following preconditioning lesions. The intrinsic growth state of injured neurons is, therefore, a key determinant for central regeneration.