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YEAR : 2018

Early movement restriction leads to maladaptive plasticity in the sensorimotor cortex and to movement disorders

AUTHORS : Delcour M, Russier M, Castets F, Turle-Lorenzo N, Canu MH, Cayetanot F, Barbe MF, Coq JO.

JOURNAL : Scientific Reports
Motor control and body representations in the central nervous system are built, i.e., patterned, during development by sensorimotor experience and somatosensory feedback/reafference. Yet, early emergence of locomotor disorders remains a matter of debate, especially in the absence of brain damage. For instance, children with developmental coordination disorders (DCD) display deficits in planning, executing and controlling movements, concomitant with deficits in executive functions. Thus, are early sensorimotor atypicalities at the origin of long-lasting abnormal development of brain anatomy and functions? We hypothesize that degraded locomotor outcomes in adulthood originate as a consequence of early atypical sensorimotor experiences that induce developmental disorganization of sensorimotor circuitry. We showed recently that postnatal sensorimotor restriction (SMR), through hind limb immobilization from birth to one month, led to enduring digitigrade locomotion with ankle-knee overextension, degraded musculoskeletal tissues (e.g., gastrocnemius atrophy), and clear signs of spinal hyperreflexia in adult rats, suggestive of spasticity; each individual disorder likely interplaying in self-perpetuating cycles. In the present study, we investigated the impact of postnatal SMR on the anatomical and functional organization of hind limb representations in the sensorimotor cortex and processes representative of maladaptive neuroplasticity. We found that 28 days of daily SMR degraded the topographical organization of somatosensory hind limb maps, reduced both somatosensory and motor map areas devoted to the hind limb representation and altered neuronal response properties in the sensorimotor cortex several weeks after the cessation of SMR. We found no neuroanatomical histopathology in hind limb sensorimotor cortex, yet increased glutamatergic neurotransmission that matched clear signs of spasticity and hyperexcitability in the adult lumbar spinal network. Thus, even in the absence of a brain insult, movement disorders and brain dysfunction can emerge as a consequence of reduced and atypical patterns of motor outputs and somatosensory feedback that induce maladaptive neuroplasticity. Our results may contribute to understanding the inception and mechanisms underlying neurodevelopmental disorders, such as DCD.