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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 964843, 12 pages
Review Article

Activity-Dependent Plasticity of Spinal Circuits in the Developing and Mature Spinal Cord

Department of Kinesiology and Program in Neuroscience, Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, IN 47405-7109, USA

Received 2 March 2012; Accepted 12 June 2012

Academic Editor: Mary F. Barbe

Copyright © 2012 Behdad Tahayori and David M. Koceja. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Part of the development and maturation of the central nervous system (CNS) occurs through interactions with the environment. Through physical activities and interactions with the world, an animal receives considerable sensory information from various sources. These sources can be internally (proprioceptive) or externally (such as touch and pressure) generated senses. Ample evidence exists to demonstrate that the sensory information originating from large diameter afferents (Ia fibers) have an important role in inducing essential functional and morphological changes for the maturation of both the brain and the spinal cord. The Ia fibers transmit sensory information generated by muscle activity and movement. Such use or activity-dependent plastic changes occur throughout life and are one reason for the ability to acquire new skills and learn new movements. However, the extent and particularly the mechanisms of activity-dependent changes are markedly different between a developing nervous system and a mature nervous system. Understanding these mechanisms is an important step to develop strategies for regaining motor function after different injuries to the CNS. Plastic changes induced by activity occur both in the brain and spinal cord. This paper reviews the activity-dependent changes in the spinal cord neural circuits during both the developmental stages of the CNS and in adulthood.