Corticospinal tract development and its plasticity after perinatal injury

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2007;31(8):1136-49. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2007.05.011. Epub 2007 Jun 6.


The final pattern of the origin and termination of the corticospinal tract is shaped during development by the balance between projection and withdrawal of axons. In animals, unilateral inhibition of the sensorimotor cortex during development results in a sparse contralateral projection from this cortex and retention of a greater number of ipsilateral projections from the more active cortex. Similarly in subjects with hemiplegic cerebral palsy if transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the damaged motor cortex fails to evoke responses in the paretic upper limb, TMS of the undamaged ipsilateral motor cortex evokes abnormally large and short-onset responses. Rather than representing a "reparative plasticity in response to injury", this review presents evidence that increased ipsilateral projections from the non-infarcted motor cortex arise from perturbation of ongoing developmental processes, whereby reduced activity in the damaged hemisphere, leads to increased withdrawal of its surviving contralateral corticospinal projections because their terminals have been displaced by the more active ipsilateral projections of the undamaged hemisphere and thereby adding to the degree of long-term motor impairment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Prenatal Injuries / pathology*
  • Prenatal Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Pyramidal Tracts* / growth & development
  • Pyramidal Tracts* / injuries
  • Pyramidal Tracts* / pathology