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Papers of the Week

Papers: 24 Feb 2024 - 1 Mar 2024

2024 Feb 13

Int J Mol Sci




Brain Plasticity in Patients with Spinal Cord Injuries: A Systematic Review.


Calderone A, Cardile D, De Luca R, Quartarone A, Corallo F, Calabrò RS


A spinal cord injury (SCI) causes changes in brain structure and brain function due to the direct effects of nerve damage, secondary mechanisms, and long-term effects of the injury, such as paralysis and neuropathic pain (NP). Recovery takes place over weeks to months, which is a time frame well beyond the duration of spinal shock and is the phase in which the spinal cord remains unstimulated below the level of injury and is associated with adaptations occurring throughout the nervous system, often referred to as neuronal plasticity. Such changes occur at different anatomical sites and also at different physiological and molecular biological levels. This review aims to investigate brain plasticity in patients with SCIs and its influence on the rehabilitation process. Studies were identified from an online search of the PubMed, Web of Science, and Scopus databases. Studies published between 2013 and 2023 were selected. This review has been registered on OSF under (n) 9QP45. We found that neuroplasticity can affect the sensory-motor network, and different protocols or rehabilitation interventions can activate this process in different ways. Exercise rehabilitation training in humans with SCIs can elicit white matter plasticity in the form of increased myelin water content. This review has demonstrated that SCI patients may experience plastic changes either spontaneously or as a result of specific neurorehabilitation training, which may lead to positive outcomes in functional recovery. Clinical and experimental evidence convincingly displays that plasticity occurs in the adult CNS through a variety of events following traumatic or non-traumatic SCI. Furthermore, efficacy-based, pharmacological, and genetic approaches, alone or in combination, are increasingly effective in promoting plasticity.