Evidence of activity-dependent withdrawal of corticospinal projections during human development

J. A. Eyre, J. P. Taylor, F. Villagra, M. Smith, S. Miller

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317 Citations (SciVal)


OBJECTIVE: To characterize the development of ipsilateral corticospinal projections from birth and compare to 1) development of contralateral projections in the same subjects and 2) ipsilateral corticospinal projections in subjects with unilateral lesions of the corticospinal system acquired perinatally or in adulthood.

METHOD: Transcranial magnetic stimulation excited the motor cortex, and responses were recorded bilaterally in pectoralis major, biceps brachii, and the first dorsal interosseus muscles. Subjects studied included 9 neonates recruited at birth, studied longitudinally for 2 years; 85 healthy subjects aged from birth to adulthood; 10 subjects with hemiplegic cerebral palsy; and 8 with hemiplegia after stroke.

RESULTS: In neonates, ipsilateral responses had significantly shorter onsets than contralateral responses but similar thresholds and amplitudes. Thresholds within both pathways increased in the first 3 months. Differential development was present from 3 months so that by 18 months ipsilateral responses were significantly smaller and had significantly higher thresholds and longer onset latencies than contralateral responses. A similar pattern of smaller and later ipsilateral responses was observed after transcranial magnetic stimulation of the intact cortex in subjects with stroke. In contrast, subjects with hemiplegic cerebral palsy had ipsilateral responses with onsets, thresholds and amplitudes similar to those of contralateral responses. Significant branching of contralateral corticospinal axons from the intact motor cortex was excluded by cross-correlation analysis.

CONCLUSIONS: These data, together with previously published anatomic and radiologic studies, are consistent with activity-dependent corticospinal axonal withdrawal during development and maintenance of increased corticomotoneuronal projections from the intact hemisphere after unilateral perinatal lesions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1543-1554
Number of pages12
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2001


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Axons
  • Cerebral Cortex
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Hemiplegia
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Pyramidal Tracts
  • Reflex
  • Stroke
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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