Using the model of facial nerve injury, we have compared the effect of injury in newborn and adult rats on the adult rat motor cortex (M1). To this end, the facial nerve was severed in 10 newborn rats 2 days after birth (Newborn group) and in 10 adult rats (Adult group). In both the Control (contralateral to untouched nerve) and the Experimental (contralateral to severed nerve) hemisphere of each rat, the M1 output organization was assessed by intracortical microstimulation. Our findings demonstrated that: (i) there is no statistical difference in the percentage of movement sites and in current thresholds required to evoke movement in Control hemispheres between the Adult and Newborn groups of rats; (ii) in Adult Experimental hemispheres, neck sites expand in the medial part of the vibrissae representation more extensively than shown in Newborn Experimental hemispheres; (iii) in Newborn Experimental hemispheres eye sites expand in the medial part of the vibrissae representation more extensively than in Adult Experimental hemispheres (these sites overlap the cortical region where electrical stimulation evokes neck movement in Adult Experimental hemispheres) and (iv) in both Newborn and Adult Experimental hemispheres, forelimb sites expand similarly thereby overlapping the same cortical region, corresponding to the lateral part of the vibrissae representation. We conclude that, when the facial nerve injury is performed in the newborn rat, the pattern of movement representation differs from that obtained with the same lesion in the mature brain only in the frontal cortex corresponding to the medial part of the normal vibrissae representation.
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