Influence of the postlesion environment and chronic piracetam treatment on the organization of the somatotopic map in the rat primary somatosensory cortex after focal cortical injury

Neuroscience. 2003;118(1):161-77. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(02)00911-9.


The influence of housing in an enriched or impoverished environment and anti-ischemic treatment (piracetam) on the organization of the intact regions of the somatosensory cortical maps adjacent to a focal cortical injury were investigated in adult rats. Response properties of small clusters of neurons were recorded in the area of the primary somatosensory cortex (SI) devoted to the contralateral forepaw representation. Electrophysiological maps were elaborated on the basis of the sensory "submodality" (cutaneous or noncutaneous) and the location of the receptive fields (RFs) of layer IV neurons. Recordings were made before, and 3 weeks after induction of a focal neurovascular lesion to the SI cortex. The main results were: 1) the focal ischemic injury induced a cellular loss which was less severe in the piracetam treated rats, regardless of the housing conditions; 2) the lesion resulted in a compression of the remaining forepaw map, a fragmentation of the representational zones serving the cutaneous surfaces (low-threshold inputs) and an enlargement of noncutaneous zones (high-threshold inputs) in the spared cortical sectors surrounding the lesion. These changes were found in all placebo rats, with the most detrimental effects in the animals exposed to an impoverished environment, and in the piracetam-plus-impoverished rats. In contrast, a limited compression of the forepaw map and a preservation of most representational sectors were observed in the piracetam-plus-enriched animals, 3) the size of the cutaneous RFs of the neurons within the intact cortical zones remained unchanged, regardless of environment or treatment; 4) consistent with the map changes, the skin surfaces lacking low-threshold cutaneous RFs increased after the lesion in all animal groups but the piracetam-plus-enriched rats; 5) cortical responsiveness as assessed with mechanical threshold evaluation was diminished in the placebo rats, whatever the environment, and in the piracetam-impoverished rats, but was not significantly affected in the piracetam-enriched animals. Our findings, based on the first double electrophysiological mapping in the rat SI cortex, highlight the protective effects of an environmental therapy associated with an anti-ischemic treatment on the neurophysiological properties of cortical neurons following a focal neurovascular injury to the neocortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Brain Injuries / drug therapy
  • Brain Injuries / pathology
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Brain Ischemia / drug therapy
  • Brain Ischemia / pathology
  • Brain Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cell Death / physiology
  • Cerebral Infarction / drug therapy
  • Cerebral Infarction / pathology
  • Cerebral Infarction / physiopathology*
  • Environment, Controlled
  • Male
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Piracetam / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Sensory Deprivation / physiology*
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Skin / innervation
  • Somatosensory Cortex / drug effects
  • Somatosensory Cortex / injuries*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiopathology
  • Touch / physiology


  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Piracetam