Effects of unilateral and bilateral training in a reaching task on dendritic branching of neurons in the rat motor-sensory forelimb cortex

Behav Neural Biol. 1985 Sep;44(2):301-14. doi: 10.1016/s0163-1047(85)90310-3.


Effects of motor training on a neocortical nerve cell population involved in performance of the motor task were assessed by measuring Layer V pyramidal neuron apical dendritic branching in motor-sensory forelimb cortex of rats trained to reach into a tube for food. Rats were trained to reach with the forepaw they preferred to use (group PRAC), the nonpreferred forepaw (REV), both forepaws (ALT), or neither forepaw (CONT). Across groups, hemispheres opposite trained forepaws had larger apical dendritic fields, in terms of total dendritic length, number of oblique branches from the apical shaft, and length of terminal branches. Similar, although somewhat less consistent, effects were seen when results were analyzed for between- (CONT vs ALT) and within-subject comparisons (trained vs nontrained hemispheres of REV and PRAC). This finding is compatible with the hypothesis that altered dendritic patterns, with associated synapses, are involved in storage of information from the training experience. The within-subject effects mitigate suggestions that these differences arise from generally acting hormonal or metabolic consequences of the training experience, although the possibility that these effects result from neural activity per se and are unrelated to information storage cannot be excluded.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure*
  • Deoxyglucose / metabolism
  • Forelimb / innervation
  • Male
  • Microscopy
  • Motor Skills / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Somatosensory Cortex / cytology*
  • Staining and Labeling


  • Deoxyglucose