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 Hand transplants seize back lost brain territory

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Date posted: 06/04/2009

Hand transplants are eventually "accepted" by the brain, a study shows, raising the prospect of full movement being recovered. Surprisingly, it seems that in right-handed people, the left hand is accepted sooner.

The motor cortex ? the part of the brain responsible for muscular movement ? maintains a physical map of the body, with different areas registering sensations in different body parts. When the brain is deprived of sensory input from a limb, such as after a hand amputation, that region goes unused. To stop prime real estate going to waste, the brain rewires itself, with areas representing the face and upper arm "creeping in" to take over the region formerly dominated by the hand.

To find out if a transplanted hand can reclaim these brain regions, Angela Sirigu and colleagues at the Institute for Cognitive Science in Lyon, France, used magnetic pulses to stimulate these areas in two people who had undergone double hand transplants. They found that muscles in the new hands responded to the stimulation, suggesting that the brain had fully accepted them.

See the full Story via external site: www.newscientist.com



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