Neurorehabilitation protocols based on the use of robotic devices provide a highly repeatable therapy and have recently shown promising clinical results. Little is known about how rehabilitation molds the brain to promote motor recovery of the affected limb. We used a custom-made robotic platform that provides quantitative assessment of forelimb function in a retraction test. Complementary imaging techniques allowed us to access to the multiple facets of robotic rehabilitation-induced cortical plasticity after unilateral photothrombotic stroke in mice Primary Motor Cortex (Caudal Forelimb Area - CFA). First, we analyzed structural features of vasculature and dendritic reshaping in the peri-infarct area with two-photon fluorescence microscopy. Longitudinal analysis of dendritic branches and spines of pyramidal neurons suggests that robotic rehabilitation promotes the stabilization of peri-infarct cortical excitatory circuits, which is not accompanied by consistent vascular reorganization towards pre-stroke conditions. To investigate if this structural stabilization was linked to functional remapping, we performed mesoscale wide-field imaging on GCaMP6 mice while performing the motor task on the robotic platform. We revealed temporal and spatial features of the motor-triggered cortical activation, shining new light on rehabilitation-induced functional remapping of the ipsilesional cortex. Finally, by using an all-optical approach that combines optogenetic activation of the contralesional hemisphere and wide-field functional imaging of peri-infarct area, we dissected the effect of robotic rehabilitation on inter-hemispheric cortico-cortical connectivity.
Anna Letizia Allegra Mascaro, Emilia Conti, Stefano Lai, Cristina Spalletti, Antonino Paolo Di Giovanna, Claudia Alia, Alessandro Panarese, Leonardo Sacconi, Silvestro Micera, Matteo Caleo, and Francesco S. Pavone, "Rehabilitation-triggered cortical plasticity after stroke: in vivo imaging at multiple scales (Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 10051, Neural Imaging and Sensing, 100510L (Presented at SPIE BiOS: January 31, 2017; Published: 19 April 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2250860.5371358597001.
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