The present study investigates the time course and pattern of movement representation recovery in the motor cortex during the recovery after a peripheral paralysis. To this end a transitory flaccid paralysis of the vibrissae muscle was induced in adult rats that underwent two unilateral injections of 8 U of botulinum toxin (BTX) into a vibrissal pad, at a duration of 12 days from one another. The compound muscle action potential (MAP) of the vibrissae muscle began to reappear 4 weeks after the first BTX injection. Intracortical microstimulation (ICMS) was used to map rat motor cortices 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 weeks after the first BTX injection. Findings demonstrated that: (i) contralateral vibrissae movement reappears in the medial part of its normal cortical territory when the MAP is almost 10% of the control value; in the remaining part, ICMS elicits eye, ipsilateral vibrissae, neck and forelimb movements; (ii) the contralateral vibrissae movement reappears in sites where ipsilateral vibrissae and/or neck movement are co-represented; (iii) as MAP recovers, the vibrissae representation expands until it recovers the 90.8% of its territory after 7 weeks, when the MAP was almost 43.4% of the control value; (iv) from 4 to 7 weeks, the ICMS-evoked contralateral vibrissae movement shows a significantly higher electrical threshold vs. the control group; (v) recovery of the baseline excitability uniformly involves the vibrissae representation 1 week later, after its cortical territory has recovered 93.1% of the control value and the MAP has returned to 78.8% of the baseline value
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