Extensive somatosensory and motor corticospinal sprouting occurs following a central dorsal column lesion in monkeys

J Comp Neurol. 2018 Oct 15;526(15):2373-2387. doi: 10.1002/cne.24491. Epub 2018 Sep 25.


The corticospinal tract (CST) forms the major descending pathway mediating voluntary hand movements in primates, and originates from ∼nine cortical subdivisions in the macaque. While the terminals of spared motor CST axons are known to sprout locally within the cord in response to spinal injury, little is known about the response of the other CST subcomponents. We previously reported that following a cervical dorsal root lesion (DRL), the primary somatosensory (S1) CST terminal projection retracts to 60% of its original terminal domain, while the primary motor (M1) projection remains robust (Darian-Smith et al., J. Neurosci., 2013). In contrast, when a dorsal column lesion (DCL) is added to the DRL, the S1 CST, in addition to the M1 CST, extends its terminal projections bilaterally and caudally, well beyond normal range (Darian-Smith et al., J. Neurosci., 2014). Are these dramatic responses linked entirely to the inclusion of a CNS injury (i.e., DCL), or do the two components summate or interact? We addressed this directly, by comparing data from monkeys that received a unilateral DCL alone, with those that received either a DRL or a combined DRL/DCL. Approximately 4 months post-lesion, the S1 hand region was mapped electrophysiologically, and anterograde tracers were injected bilaterally into the region deprived of normal input, to assess spinal terminal labeling. Using multifactorial analyses, we show that following a DCL alone (i.e., cuneate fasciculus lesion), the S1 and M1 CSTs also sprout significantly and bilaterally beyond normal range, with a termination pattern suggesting some interaction between the peripheral and central lesions.

Keywords: RRID: AB_2313606; RRID: AB_2536190; corticospinal tract; dorsal column; functional recovery; motor; nonhuman primate; primary afferent lesion; somatosensory; spinal cord injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Brain Mapping
  • Gray Matter / pathology
  • Hand / innervation
  • Hand Strength
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / injuries
  • Motor Cortex / pathology*
  • Motor Skills Disorders / pathology
  • Pyramidal Tracts / injuries
  • Pyramidal Tracts / pathology*
  • Recovery of Function / physiology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / injuries
  • Somatosensory Cortex / pathology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / pathology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / psychology
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / injuries
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / pathology*
  • Touch