AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 2, 2017

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Cortical Nerve Function in Former Amputees Remains Poor Decades After Reconstructive Surgery

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Study explores the impact of hand amputation, reattachment and transplant on brain cells

Researchers have found that the nerve cells (neurons) controlling sensation and movement of the hands show injury-induced changes for years after hand amputation, reattachment or transplant. The small study is the first of its kind to non-invasively explore the health and function of the cortical neurons (neuronal integrity) in these populations at the neurochemical level. The sensory and motor components of a hand’s nerves are severed during hand amputation, resulting in a dramatic reduction in stimulation in the brain’s cerebral cortex, which controls these functions. Cortical areas formerly devoted to the missing hand undergo substantial functional reorganization as a result of this nerve loss. Little, however, is known about neurochemical changes at this level and the potential to reverse these changes with reconstructive surgery.

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