Thoracic spinal cord injured rats rely largely on forelimbs to walk, as their hindlimbs are dysfunctional. This increased limb use is accompanied by expansion of the cortical forelimb sensory representation. It is unclear how quickly the representational changes occur and whether they are at all related to the behavioral adaptation. Using blood oxygenation level dependent functional mangetic resonance imaging (BOLD-fMRI) we show that major plastic changes of the somato-sensory map can occur as early as one day after injury. The extent of map increase was variable between animals, and some animals showed a reduction in map size. However, at three or seven days after injury a significant enhancement of the forelimb representation was evident in all the animals. In a behavioral test for precise limb control, crossing of a horizontal ladder, the injured rats relied almost entirely on their forelimbs; they initially made more mistakes than at 7 days post injury. Remarkably, in the individual animals the behavioral performance seen at seven days was proportional to the physiological change present at one day after injury. The rapid increase in cortical representation of the injury-spared body part may provide the additional neural substrate necessary for high level behavioral adaptation.