The functional organization of adult cerebral cortex is characterized by the presence of highly ordered sensory and motor maps. Despite their archetypical organization, the maps maintain the capacity to rapidly reorganize, suggesting that the neural circuitry underlying cortical representations is inherently plastic. Here we show that the circuitry supporting motor maps is dependent upon continued protein synthesis. Injections of two different protein synthesis inhibitors into adult rat forelimb motor cortex caused an immediate and enduring loss of movement representations. The disappearance of the motor map was accompanied by a significant reduction in synapse number, synapse size, and cortical field potentials and caused skilled forelimb movement impairments. Further, motor skill training led to a reappearance of movement representations. We propose that the circuitry of adult motor cortex is perpetually labile and requires continued protein synthesis in order to maintain its functional organization.
ASJC Scopus subject areas