Normal brain function requires constant adaptation, as an organism learns to associate important sensory stimuli with the appropriate motor actions. Neurological disorders may disrupt these learned associations and require the nervous system to reorganize itself. As a consequence, neural plasticity is a crucial component of normal brain function and a critical mechanism for recovery from injury. Associative, or Hebbian, pairing of pre- and post-synaptic activity has been shown to alter stimulus-evoked responses in vivo; however, to date, such protocols have not been shown to affect the animal's subsequent behavior. We paired stimulus trains separated by a brief time delay to two electrodes in rat sensorimotor cortex, which changed the statistical pattern of spikes during subsequent behavior. These changes were consistent with strengthened functional connections from the leading electrode to the lagging electrode. We then trained rats to respond to a microstimulation cue, and repeated the paradigm using the cue electrode as the leading electrode. This pairing lowered the rat's ICMS-detection threshold, with the same dependence on intra-electrode time lag that we found for the functional connectivity changes. The timecourse of the behavioral effects was very similar to that of the connectivity changes. We propose that the behavioral changes were a consequence of strengthened functional connections from the cue electrode to other regions of sensorimotor cortex. Such paradigms might be used to augment recovery from a stroke, or to promote adaptation in a bidirectional brain-machine interface.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Biomedical Engineering