© 2016 by the Journal of Biomedical Research. All rights reserved.Recently, we have shown that manual stimulation of paralyzed vibrissal muscles after facial-facial anastomosis reduced the poly-innervation of neuromuscular junctions and restored vibrissal whisking. Using gene knock outs, we found a differential dependence of manual stimulation effects on growth factors. Thus, insulin-like growth factor- 1 and brain-derived neurotrophic factor are required to underpin manual stimulation-mediated improvements, whereas FGF-2 is not. The lack of dependence on FGF-2 in mediating these peripheral effects prompted us to look centrally, i.e. within the facial nucleus where increased astrogliosis after facial-facial anastomosis follows "synaptic stripping". We measured the intensity of Cy3-fluorescence after immunostaining for glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) as an indirect indicator of synaptic coverage of axotomized neurons in the facial nucleus of mice lacking FGF-2 (FGF-2-/- mice). There was no difference in GFAP-Cy3-fluorescence (pixel number, gray value range 17-103) between intact wildtype mice (2.12± 0.37×107) and their intact FGF-2-/- counterparts (2.12±0.27×107) nor after facial-facial anastomosis +handling (wildtype: 4.06±0.32×107; FGF-2-/-: 4.39±0.17×107). However, after facial- facial anastomosis, GFAP-Cy3-fluorescence remained elevated in FGF-2-/--animals (4.54±0.12×107), whereas manual stimulation reduced the intensity of GFAP-immunofluorescence in wild type mice to values that were not significantly different from intact mice (2.63±0.39×10 ). We conclude that FGF-2 is not required to underpin the beneficial effects of manual stimulation at the neuro-muscular junction, but it is required to minimize astrogliosis in the brainstem and, by implication, restore synaptic coverage of recovering facial motoneurons.