Friday, March 27, 2009

Observing a brain rewiring itself

Our motor cortex has a topographic representation of our bodies (a homunculus), as shown in the figure. It has generally been assumed that this organization is "hard wired" by genetic instructions. Stoeckel et al. have now made the fascinating observation that in subjects with congenitally compromised hand function and compensatory skillful foot use, a representation of the foot appears in the vicinity of the normal hand area. Their results imply that during early motor development experience may play a more critical role in the shaping of genetically determined neural networks than previously assumed.

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