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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2016, Article ID 8176217, 17 pages
Review Article

Upper Limb Immobilisation: A Neural Plasticity Model with Relevance to Poststroke Motor Rehabilitation

1School of Psychology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 7XH, UK
2Neurology Clinical Division, Clinics Hospital, São Paulo University, Avenida Dr. Enéas C. Aguiar 255/5084, 05403-010 São Paulo, SP, Brazil
3Instituto de Ensino e Pesquisa, Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, Avenida Albert Einstein 627/701, 05601-901 São Paulo, SP, Brazil
4Human Cortical Physiology and Stroke Rehabilitation Section, National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Building 10, Room 7D54, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA

Received 7 August 2015; Revised 13 October 2015; Accepted 19 October 2015

Academic Editor: Lin Xu

Copyright © 2016 Leonardo Furlan et al. 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.


Advances in our understanding of the neural plasticity that occurs after hemiparetic stroke have contributed to the formulation of theories of poststroke motor recovery. These theories, in turn, have underpinned contemporary motor rehabilitation strategies for treating motor deficits after stroke, such as upper limb hemiparesis. However, a relative drawback has been that, in general, these strategies are most compatible with the recovery profiles of relatively high-functioning stroke survivors and therefore do not easily translate into benefit to those individuals sustaining low-functioning upper limb hemiparesis, who otherwise have poorer residual function. For these individuals, alternative motor rehabilitation strategies are currently needed. In this paper, we will review upper limb immobilisation studies that have been conducted with healthy adult humans and animals. Then, we will discuss how the findings from these studies could inspire the creation of a neural plasticity model that is likely to be of particular relevance to the context of motor rehabilitation after stroke. For instance, as will be elaborated, such model could contribute to the development of alternative motor rehabilitation strategies for treating poststroke upper limb hemiparesis. The implications of the findings from those immobilisation studies for contemporary motor rehabilitation strategies will also be discussed and perspectives for future research in this arena will be provided as well.