Abstract Background and objective. Prior studies have suggested that after stroke there is a time-limited period of increased responsiveness to training as a result of heightened plasticity—a sensitive period thought to be induced by ischemia itself. Using a mouse model, we have previously shown that most training-associated recovery after a caudal forelimb area (CFA) stroke occurs in the first week and is attributable to reorganization in a medial premotor area (AGm). The existence of a stroke-induced sensitive period leads to the counterintuitive prediction that a second stroke should reopen this window and promote full recovery from the first stroke. To test this prediction, we induced a second stroke in the AGm of mice with incomplete recovery after a first stroke in CFA. Methods. Mice were trained to perform a skilled prehension (reachto-grasp) task to an asymptotic level of performance, after which they underwent photocoagulation-induced stroke in CFA. After a 7-day poststroke delay, the mice were then retrained to asymptote. We then induced a second stroke in the AGm, and after only a 1-day delay, retrained the mice. Results. Recovery of prehension was incomplete when training was started after a 7-day poststroke delay and continued for 19 days. However, a second focal stroke in the AGm led to a dramatic response to 9 days of training, with full recovery to normal levels of performance. Conclusions. New ischemia can reopen a sensitive period of heightened responsiveness to training and mediate full recovery from a previous stroke.
Steven R. Zeiler, MD, PhD , Robert Hubbard , Ellen M. Gibson , Tony Zheng , Kwan Ng, MD, PhD , Richard O’Brien, MD, PhD , and John W. Krakauer, MD