Neuronal lesions trigger mechanisms of structural and functional neuroplasticity, which can support recovery. However, the temporal and spatial appearance of structure–function changes and their interrelation remain unclear. The current study aimed to directly compare serial whole-brain in vivo measurements of functional plasticity (by [18F]FDG-PET) and structural synaptic plasticity (by [18F]UCB-H-PET) before and after bilateral labyrinthectomy in rats and investigate the effect of locomotor training. Complex structure–function changes were found after bilateral labyrinthectomy: in brainstem-cerebellar circuits, regional cerebral glucose metabolism (rCGM) decreased early, followed by reduced synaptic density. In the thalamus, increased [18F]UCB-H binding preceded a higher rCGM uptake. In frontal-basal ganglia loops, an increase in synaptic density was paralleled by a decrease in rCGM. In the group with locomotor training, thalamic rCGM and [18F]UCB-H binding increased following bilateral labyrinthectomy compared to the no training group. Rats with training had considerably fewer body rotations. In conclusion, combined [18F]FDG/[18F]UCB-H dual tracer imaging reveals that adaptive neuroplasticity after bilateral vestibular loss is not a uniform process but is composed of complex spatial and temporal patterns of structure–function coupling in networks for vestibular, multisensory, and motor control, which can be modulated by early physical training.
Melissa Antons, Magdalena Lindner, Maximilian Grosch, Rosel Oos, Giovanna Palumbo, Matthias Brendel, Sibylle Ziegler, Peter Bartenstein, Marianne Dieterich & Andreas Zwergal
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