Lesion-induced and activity-dependent structural plasticity of Purkinje cell dendritic spines in cerebellar vermis and hemisphere

Francesca Gelfo, Fulvio Florenzano, Francesca Foti, Lorena Burello, Laura Petrosini, Paola de Bartolo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neuroplasticity allows the brain to encode experience and learn behaviors, and also to re-acquire lost functions after damage. The cerebellum is a suitable structure to address this topic because of its strong involvement in learning processes and compensation of lesion-induced deficits. This study was aimed to characterize the effects of a hemicerebellectomy (HCb) combined or not with the exposition to environmental enrichment (EE) on dendritic spine density and size in Purkinje cell proximal and distal compartments of cerebellar vermian and hemispherical regions. Male Wistar rats were housed in enriched or standard environments from the 21st post-natal day (pnd) onwards. At the 75th pnd, rats were submitted to HCb or sham lesion. Neurological symptoms and spatial performance in the Morris water maze were evaluated. At the end of testing, morphological analyses assessed dendritic spine density, area, length, and head diameter on vermian and hemispherical Purkinje cells. All hemicerebellectomized (HCbed) rats showed motor compensation, but standard-reared HCbed animals exhibited cognitive impairment that was almost completely compensated in enriched HCbed rats. The standard-reared HCbed rats showed decreased density with augmented size of Purkinje cell spines in the vermis, and augmented both density and size in the hemisphere. Enriched HCbed rats almost completely maintained the spine density and size induced by EE. Both lesion-induced and activity-dependent cerebellar plastic changes may be interpreted as “beneficial” brain reactions, aimed to support behavioral performance rescuing.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain Structure and Function
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Sep 29 2015


  • Cerebellum
  • Environmental enrichment
  • Hemicerebellectomy
  • Rat
  • Recovery of function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Anatomy
  • Histology


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