Motor Learning and Stroke Dynamics: A MicroPET Study
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Ischemic stroke is the third leading cause of death, being responsible for over 200,000 deaths per year in the United States, and is the leading neurological cause of disability. The treatment of chronic behavioral loss following stroke is considered a major problem in the field of medicine. One way to develop new treatments for stroke patients is to use animal models, which have been developed principally in rodents, to mimic the pathology of stroke and to try to understand the basic mechanisms which might underlie functional improvement. Among the many animal models of stroke, the intraluminal middle cerebral artery occlusion is one of the most consistent and reliable. It is important, given the difficulty of treating individuals during the post-stroke period to look for possible pre-stroke interventions that may be neuroprotective, and may be crucial in helping the individual by either mediating the stroke damage or facilitating stroke recovery. Among these interventions, specific fine motor skills look promising in that they have been shown to cause enhanced neurogenesis, specifically dendritic branching, in the motor cortex, an area very often damaged in stroke patients. In the study proposed in this paper, it is hypothesized that that pre-stroke motor learning will reduce severity of stroke in rats and will enable them to rehabilitate affected body areas more quickly than those of control rats who do not learn the motor task.