Adult rats were allocated to either a skilled or unskilled reaching condition (SRC and URC, respectively). SRC animals were trained for 10 days on a skilled reaching task while URC animals were trained on a simple bar pressing task. After training, microelectrode stimulation was used to derive high resolution maps of the forelimb and hindlimb representations within the motor cortex. In comparison with URC animals, SRC animals exhibited a significant increase in mean area of the wrist and digit representations but a decrease in elbow/shoulder representation within the caudal forelimb area. No between-group differences in areal representation were found in either the hindlimb or rostral forelimb areas. These results demonstrate that motor skill learning is associated with a reorganization of movement representations within the rodent motor cortex.
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