Adult mammalian brains undergo reorganization following deafferentations due to peripheral nerve, cortical or spinal cord injuries. The largest extent of cortical reorganization is seen in area 3b of the somatosensory cortex of monkeys with chronic transection of the dorsal roots or dorsal columns of the spinal cord. These injuries cause expansion of intact face inputs into the deafferented hand cortex, resulting in a change of representational boundaries by more than 7 mm. Here we show that large-scale reorganization in area 3b following spinal cord injuries is due to changes at the level of the brainstem nuclei and not due to cortical mechanisms. Selective inactivation of the reorganized cuneate nucleus of the brainstem eliminates observed face expansion in area 3b. Thus, the substrate for the observed expanded face representation in area 3b lies in the cuneate nucleus. © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.