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Papers of the Week

Papers: 29 Jul 2023 - 4 Aug 2023

2023 Jul 29

Neurosci Biobehav Rev


Functional and structural synaptic remodeling mechanisms underlying somatotopic organization and reorganization in the thalamus.


Ueta Y, Miyata M


The somatosensory system organizes the topographic representation of body maps, termed somatotopy, at all levels of an ascending hierarchy. Postnatal maturation of somatotopy establishes optimal somatosensation, whereas deafferentation in adults reorganizes somatotopy, which underlies pathological somatosensation, such as phantom pain and complex regional pain syndrome. Here, we focus on the mouse whisker somatosensory thalamus to study how sensory experience shapes the fine topography of afferent connectivity during the critical period and what mechanisms remodel it and drive a large-scale somatotopic reorganization after peripheral nerve injury. We will review our findings that, following peripheral nerve injury in adults, lemniscal afferent synapses onto thalamic neurons are remodeled back to immature configuration, as if the critical period reopens. The remodeling process is initiated with local activation of microglia in the brainstem somatosensory nucleus downstream to injured nerves and heterosynaptically controlled by input from GABAergic and cortical neurons to thalamic neurons. These fruits of thalamic studies complement well-studied cortical mechanisms of somatotopic organization and reorganization and unveil potential intervention points in treating pathological somatosensation.