Clinical implications of basic research| Volume 93, ISSUE 10, P1846-1855, October 2012

Neuroplasticity: An Appreciation From Synapse to System


      Gillick BT, Zirpel L. Neuroplasticity: an appreciation from synapse to system.


      To integrate our functional knowledge in neurorehabilitation with a greater understanding of commonly held theories and current research in neuroplasticity.


      Literature review.


      Not applicable.


      Animal and human research.


      Interventions specific to application in humans: constraint-induced movement therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and transcranial direct current stimulation.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Cortical excitability, blood oxygen level–dependent signal, and functional outcomes.


      There is increasing evidence elucidating the cellular and molecular mechanisms of plasticity of the nervous system including growth, modification, degradation, and even death of neurons. Some of these mechanisms directly correlate with therapy-induced behavioral changes, and all provide an understanding of the response of the nervous system to altered inputs. The understanding of neural correlates of behavior can then form the foundation for more productive, comprehensive interventions.


      The focus of recent research surrounds translational projects aimed at enhancing clinical outcomes. Knowledge of mechanisms underlying this adaptability is the foundation for our treatments, diagnoses, and prognoses. The increasing understanding of the mechanisms underlying neuroplasticity can guide, direct, and focus the practice of current and future therapies to greater efficacy and better functional outcomes in clinical rehabilitation.

      Key Words

      List of Abbreviations:

      AMPA (α-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionate), BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), CaMK (calcium/calmodulin-dependent kinase), CIMT (constraint-induced movement therapy), CREB (cyclic adenosine monophosphate response element-binding protein), EPSP (excitatory postsynaptic potential), fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid), HABIT (hand-arm intensive bimanual therapy), IHI (interhemispheric inhibition), IPSP (inhibitory postsynaptic potential), LTD (long-term depression), LTP (long-term potentiation), MEP (motor-evoked potential), NGF (nerve growth factor), NMDA (N-methyl-d-aspartate), PMF (pulsed magnetic field), rTMS (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation), tDCS (transcranial direct current stimulation), TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation)
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