Combined Rehabilitation Promotes the Recovery of Structural and Functional Features of Healthy Neuronal Networks after Stroke

Cell Rep. 2019 Sep 24;28(13):3474-3485.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.08.062.


Rehabilitation is considered the most effective treatment for promoting the recovery of motor deficits after stroke. One of the most challenging experimental goals is to unambiguously link brain rewiring to motor improvement prompted by rehabilitative therapy. Previous work showed that robotic training combined with transient inactivation of the contralesional cortex promotes a generalized recovery in a mouse model of stroke. Here, we use advanced optical imaging and manipulation tools to study cortical remodeling induced by this rehabilitation paradigm. We show that the stabilization of peri-infarct synaptic contacts accompanies increased vascular density induced by angiogenesis. Furthermore, temporal and spatial features of cortical activation recover toward pre-stroke conditions through the progressive formation of a new motor representation in the peri-infarct area. In the same animals, we observe reinforcement of inter-hemispheric connectivity. Our results provide evidence that combined rehabilitation promotes the restoration of structural and functional features distinctive of healthy neuronal networks.

Keywords: angiogenesis; calcium imaging; cerebral cortex; in vivo; optogenetics; pharmacological therapy; photothrombosis; robotic rehabilitation; spine plasticity; two-photon microscopy.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Recovery of Function
  • Rehabilitation / methods*
  • Stroke / therapy*