Background:After sub-total hemi-section of cervical cord at level C7/C8 in monkeys, the ipsilesional hand exhibited a paralysis for a couple of weeks, followed by incomplete recovery of manual dexterity, reaching a plateau after 40–50 days. Recently, we demonstrated that the level of the plateau was related to the size of the lesion and that progressive plastic changes of the motor map in the contralesional motor cortex, particularly the hand representation, took place following a comparable time course. The goal of the present study was to assess, in three macaque monkeys, whether the hand representation in the ipsilesional primary motor cortex (M1) was also affected by the cervical hemi-section.
Results:Unexpectedly, based on the minor contribution of the ipsilesional hemisphere to the transected corticospinal (CS) tract, a considerable reduction of the hand representation was also observed in the ipsilesional M1. Mapping control experiments ruled out the possibility that changes of motor maps are due to variability of the intracortical microstimulation mapping technique. The extent of the size reduction of the hand area was nearly as large as in the contralesional hemisphere in two of the three monkeys. In the third monkey, it represented a reduction by a factor of half the change observed in the contralesional hemisphere. Although the hand representation was modified in the ipsilesional hemisphere, such changes were not correlated with a contribution of this hemisphere to the incomplete recovery of the manual dexterity for the hand affected by the lesion, as demonstrated by reversible inactivation experiments (in contrast to the contralesional hemisphere). Moreover, despite the size reduction of M1 hand area in the ipsilesional hemisphere, no deficit of manual dexterity for the hand opposite to the cervical hemi-section was detected.
Conclusion:After cervical hemi-section, the ipsilesional motor cortex exhibited substantial reduction of the hand representation, whose extent did not match the small number of axotomized CS neurons. We hypothesized that the paradoxical reduction of hand representation in the ipsilesional hemisphere is secondary to the changes taking place in the contralesional hemisphere, possibly corresponding to postural adjustments and/or re-establishing a balance between the two hemispheres.