Plasticity of cortical maps
The structural and functional reorganisation of neuronal networks is a key mechanism that enables adjusting to novel situations and recovery after injuries, but it can also have maladaptive consequences. The pair of forces that shape the organisation of the cortex – sensory stimulation and sensory deprivation – are studied in this project using both amputees and anaesthetised two-handed volunteers. We use ultra high field neuroimaging to describe plasticity in the human brain at the macroscopic level. Finally, the experimental findings are complemented with computer models at the neural circuit level.
The primary somatosensory cortex is a perfect model system for studying neural reorganisation. Its topographic layout makes experimental results easy to interpret (and to simulate). The reorganisation of the primary somatosensory cortex is increasingly assumed to play a key role in a range of clinical conditions such as phantom limb pain and writer’s cramp. There, understanding the rules which govern the process has important implications for designing clinical treatments.
Makin TR, Filippini N, Duff EP, Henderson Slater D, Tracey I, Johansen-Berg H. (2015). Network-level reorganisation of functional connectivity following arm amputation. Neuroimage. 114:217-25. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.02.067
Makin, T. R., Scholz, J., Filippini, N., Slater, D. H., Tracey, I., & Johansen-Berg, H. (2013). Phantom pain is associated with preserved structure and function in the former hand area. Nature communications, 4, 1570.
Vogels, T. P., Sprekeler, H., Zenke, F., Clopath, C., & Gerstner, W. (2011). Inhibitory plasticity balances excitation and inhibition in sensory pathways and memory networks. Science, 334(6062), 1569-1573.
Jörn Diedrichsen, Brain and Mind Institute, University of Western Ontario