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AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 2, 2017

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Stroke Recovery Improved by Sensory Deprivation, Mouse Study Shows

Trimming animals’ whiskers activates brain to rewire damaged circuits after stroke

 

Temporarily shutting off neuronal signals to a healthy part of the brain may aid stroke recovery, according to new research in mice.

Mice that had experienced strokes were more likely to recover the ability to use a front paw if their whiskers were clipped following a stroke. Trimming the whiskers deprives an area of the mouse’s brain from receiving sensory signals from the animals’ whiskers. And it leaves that area of the brain more plastic – or receptive to rewiring to take on new tasks.

“We may have to rethink how we do stroke rehabilitation,” said senior author Jin-Moo Lee, MD, PhD, the Norman J. Stupp Professor of Neurology at the School of Medicine. “Stroke rehab often focuses on trying to train patients to compensate for disability caused by the stroke, but this strategy has limited effectiveness. Our findings suggest that we may be able to stimulate recovery by temporarily vacating some brain real estate and making that region of the brain more plastic. One way to do that might be by immobilizing a healthy limb.”

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