Nature 444, 56-60 (2 November 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature05226; Received 1 May 2006; Accepted 29 August 2006; Published online 22 October 2006

Long-term motor cortex plasticity induced by an electronic neural implant

Andrew Jackson1, Jaideep Mavoori2 & Eberhard E. Fetz1

  1. Department of Physiology and Biophysics and Washington National Primate Research Center,
  2. Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA

Correspondence to: Eberhard E. Fetz1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to E.E.F. (Email:


It has been proposed that the efficacy of neuronal connections is strengthened when there is a persistent causal relationship between presynaptic and postsynaptic activity. Such activity-dependent plasticity may underlie the reorganization of cortical representations during learning, although direct in vivo evidence is lacking. Here we show that stable reorganization of motor output can be induced by an artificial connection between two sites in the motor cortex of freely behaving primates. An autonomously operating electronic implant used action potentials recorded on one electrode to trigger electrical stimuli delivered at another location. Over one or more days of continuous operation, the output evoked from the recording site shifted to resemble the output from the corresponding stimulation site, in a manner consistent with the potentiation of synaptic connections between the artificially synchronized populations of neurons. Changes persisted in some cases for more than one week, whereas the output from sites not incorporated in the connection was unaffected. This method for inducing functional reorganization in vivo by using physiologically derived stimulus trains may have practical application in neurorehabilitation after injury.


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