A retrograde tracing study of compensatory corticospinal projections in rats with neonatal hemidecortication

Dev Neurosci. 2011;33(6):539-47. doi: 10.1159/000335526. Epub 2012 Jan 27.


To examine the compensatory mechanisms in rats that underwent left decortication at postnatal day 7 (P7), we injected the retrograde tracers fluorescein isothiocyanate-cholera toxin B subunit (FITC-CTB) and Fast Blue (FB) into the right and left upper cervical spinal cord, respectively, at postoperative weeks 2, 3, 4, and 5 and counted the number of retrogradely labeled corticospinal neurons in the right cerebral cortex compared with that in normally developed rats. Significantly more ipsilaterally projecting neurons were labeled with FITC-CTB in the decorticated rats compared with normal rats at all time points examined. The number of labeled neurons was similar to that at P7 in normal rats. There were also some FITC-CTB and FB double-labeled neurons in both decorticated and normal rats. The number of double-labeled neurons in the decorticated rats increased each week and was significantly greater than that in normal rats at postoperative weeks 4 and 5. The present results suggest that the elimination of ipsilaterally projecting axons observed in normal rats was prevented in the decorticated rats, so that the cerebral cortex neurons on the unlesioned side projected corticospinal tracts to the ipsilateral spinal cord. Furthermore, the collaterals of the corticospinal tracts originating from the cerebral cortex on the unlesioned side also project to the ipsilateral spinal cord. These compensatory mechanisms might underlie the acquisition of motor function in these animals.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cerebral Decortication*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Pyramidal Tracts / cytology
  • Pyramidal Tracts / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar