Environment, training, and experience can influence plasticity and recovery of function after brain damage. However, it is less well known whether, and how, such factors influence the growth, integration, and functional recovery provided by neural grafts placed within the brain. To explore this process, rats were pretrained on the skilled staircase test, then lesioned unilaterally in the lateral dorsal striatum with quinolinic acid. Half of the animals were given suspension grafts prepared from E15 whole ganglionic eminence implanted into the lesioned striatum. For the following 5 months, half of the animals in each group were trained daily in a bilateral manual dexterity task. Then, 23 weeks after surgery, all animals were retested on the staircase test. The grafts promoted recovery in the reaching task, irrespective of the additional dexterity training, and within the trained group recovery was proportional to the volume of the striatal-like tissue in the graft, suggesting that training influenced the pattern of graft-induced functional recovery. The additional training also benefited the rats with lesions alone, raising their performance close to level of the grafted groups. In separate tests of rotation, the grafts reduced drug-induced ipsilateral turning in response to both amphetamine and apomorphine, an effect that was greater in the grafted rats given extra training. The results suggest that both nonspecific motor training and cell transplantation can contribute to recovery of lost function in tests of spontaneous and skilled lateralized motor function after striatal damage, and that these two factors interact in a task-specific manner. © 2003 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.
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