Neuroplasticity is the nervous system’s ability to adapt its structure and reorganize itself to form new neural pathways. This ability is how an uninjured area of the brain can compensate for functions controlled by an injured area. When undamaged axons sprout and form new connections, new or alternate neural pathways are established, which may support recovery of lost functions.
Miami Project researchers are interested in the plasticity of neurons, synapses and neural circuits. The aim of their work is to understand how injury influences neuron plasticity and to design treatments that promote positive plastic changes to maximize function. Basic scientists study the mechanisms of neurogenesis and synapse formation during development. By examining the complex interactions that “growth and guidance” molecule have on axon growth and synapse formation, they hope to discover and use cues that influence regeneration of mature neurons after injury.
In addition to the study of neural and synaptic plasticity, Miami Project clinical investigators are interested in therapies that influence the plasticity of neural circuits. Retraining the neuronal circuitry through rehabilitation and electrical stimulation may promote neuroplasticity that can restore functional abilities to spinal cord injured people.