Sterr, A. & Basto Conforto, A. (2012) Plasticity of adult sensorimotor system in severe brain infacts: challenges and opportunities. Neural Plasticity. Published online March 22

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Abstract: Functional reorganization forms the critical mechanism for the recovery of function after brain damage. These processes are driven by inherent changes within the central nervous system (CNS) triggered by the insult and further depend on the neural input the recovering system is processing. Therefore these processes interact with not only the interventions a patient receives, but also the activities and behaviors a patient engages in. In recent years, a wide range of research programs has addressed the association between functional reorganization and the spontaneous and treatment-induced recovery. The bulk of this work has focused on upper-limb and hand function, and today there are new treatments available that capitalize on the neuroplasticity of the brain. However, this is only true for patients with mild to moderated impairments; for those with very limited hand function, the basic understanding is much poorer and directly translates into limited treatment opportunities for these patients. The present paper aims to highlight the knowledge gap on severe stroke with a brief summary of the literature followed by a discussion of the challenges involved in the study and treatment of severe stroke and poor long-term outcome.