Immediate and chronic changes in responses of somatosensory cortex in adult flying-fox after digit amputation
The somatosensory cortex of adult mammals has been shown to have a capacity to reorganize when inputs are removed by cutting afferent nerves or amputating a part of the body. The area of cortex that would normally respond to stimulation of the missing input can become responsive to inputs from other parts of the body surface. Although a few animals have been studied with repeat recording, no attempt has been made to follow the time-course of changes at cortical loci and the immediate effects of a small amputation have not been reported. We have followed the changes in response in the primary somatosensory cortex in the flying-fox following amputation of the single exposed digit on the forelimb. Immediately after amputation, neurons in the area of cortex receiving inputs from the missing digit were not silent but responded to stimulation of adjoining regions of the digit, hand, arm and wing. In the week following amputation, the enlarged receptive fields shrank until they covered only the skin around the amputation wound. The immediate response is interpreted as a removal of inhibition and the subsequent shrinking of the field may be due to re-establishment of the inhibitory balance in the affected cortex and its inputs.