There have been controversies on the contribution of contralesional hemispheric compensation to functional recovery of the upper extremity after a unilateral brain lesion. Some studies have demonstrated that contralesional hemispheric compensation may be an important recovery mechanism. However, in many cases where the hemispheric lesion is large, this form of compensation is relatively limited, potentially due to insufficient connections from the contralesional hemisphere to the paralyzed side. Here, we used a new procedure to increase the effect of contralesional hemispheric compensation by surgically crossing a peripheral nerve at the neck in rats, which may provide a substantial increase in connections between the contralesional hemisphere and the paralyzed limb. This surgical procedure, named cross-neck C7-C7 nerve transfer, involves cutting the C7 nerve on the healthy side and transferring it to the C7 nerve on the paretic side. Intracortical microstimulation, Micro-PET and histological analysis were employed to explore the cortical changes in contralesional hemisphere and to reveal its correlation with behavioral recovery. These results showed that the contralesional hemispheric compensation was markedly strengthened and significantly related to behavioral improvements. The findings also revealed a feasible and effective way to maximize the potential of one hemisphere in controlling both limbs.
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