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Spinal Cord Injury Center, Research

Freund, Patrick, Prof. Dr.

University of Zurich
Spinal Cord Injury Center, Research
Balgrist University Hospital
Forchstrasse 340, 8008 Zurich
Tel. +41 44 510 72 11
Email: patrick.freund[at]

Group Leader Neuroimaging
& Clinical Fellow in Neurology

Main Goals, Keywords

  • Non-invasive neuroimaging of structural and functional changes in neurological disorders affecting the spinal cord.
  • Methodological development of high-resolution MRI sequences targeting the entire neuroaxis.

Group Members

2 postdoctoral fellows, 3 PhD students, 1 medical Doctor, 2 master students, 1 visiting postdoc

Previous and Current Research

The focus of previous and current research projects is to better understand how the anatomy and the function of the spinal cord and the brain change in neurological disorders involving the spinal cord. The main goal is to develop neuroimaging biomarkers that are sensitive and accurate in predicting functional outcome in order to register more quickly the impact of therapeutic treatments and rehabilitative interventions. The development and application of high-resolution MR sequences and post-processing imaging pipelines are therefore a major area of our research. Other areas of interest are to explore the mechanisms underlying cortical and spinal plasticity during learning.

Future Projects

Experimental findings from basic research often fail to translate into patients benefit although the principal underlying mechanisms of spinal cord damage and regeneration/repair are rather similar between animal models and humans. We aim to facilitate the translation from animal models to humans by conjointly applying the same neuroimaging protocols in animals and post-mortem human spinal and brain tissue and correlating the latter findings with histological markers of repair and degeneration.


Get more information:


Selected Publications

Dario Pfyffer, Eveline Huber, Reto Sutter, Armin Curt, Patrick Freund  Tissue bridges predict recovery after traumatic and ischemic thoracic spinal cord injury Neurology . 2019 Oct 15;93(16):e1550-e1560. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000008318. Epub 2019 Sep 20.

Gergely David, Maryam Seif, Eveline Huber, Markus Hupp, Jan Rosner, Volker Dietz, Nikolaus Weiskopf, Siawoosh Mohammadi, Patrick Freund In vivo evidence of remote neural degeneration in the lumbar enlargement after cervical injury Neurology . 2019 Mar 19;92(12):e1367-e1377. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000007137. Epub 2019 Feb 15.

Wyss PO, et al. Radiology. 2019. PMID: 30694162 MR Spectroscopy of the Cervical Spinal Cord in Chronic Spinal Cord Injury.

Freund P, et al. Lancet Neurol. 2019. PMID: 31405713 Review. MRI in traumatic spinal cord injury: from clinical assessment to neuroimaging biomarkers.

Gergely David, Siawoosh Mohammadi, Allan R Martin, Julien Cohen-Adad, Nikolaus Weiskopf, Alan Thompson, Patrick Freund Traumatic and nontraumatic spinal cord injury: pathological insights from neuroimaging Nat Rev Neurol  2019 Dec;15(12):718-731.  doi: 10.1038/s41582-019-0270-5. Epub 2019 Oct 31.

Ziegler G, Grabher P, Thompson A, Altmann D, Hupp M, Ashburner J, Friston K, Weiskopf N, Curt A, Freund P. Progressive neurodegeneration following spinal cord injury: Implications for clinical trials. Neurology. 2018 Mar 7. pii: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000005258. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000005258

Freund P, Friston K, Thompson AJ, Stephan KE, Ashburner J, Bach DR, Nagy Z, Helms G, Draganski B, Mohammadi S, Schwab ME, Curt A, Weiskopf N. Embodied neurology: an integrative framework for neurological disorders. Brain. 2016 Jun;139(Pt 6):1855-61.

Grabher P, Callaghan MF, Ashburner J, Weiskopf N, Thompson AJ, Curt A, Freund P.Tracking sensory system atrophy and outcome prediction in spinal cord injury.Ann Neurol. 2015 Nov;78(5):751-61. doi: 10.1002/ana.24508. Epub 2015 Sep 18.

P. Freund, N. Weiskopf, J. Ashburner, K. Wolf, R. Sutter, D. Altmann, K. Friston, A. Thompson and A. Curt, Investigation of the sensorimotor cortex and corticospinal tract after acute spinal cord injury: a prospective longitudinal MRI study, The Lancet Neurology. July 2, 2013.

P. Freund, N. Weiskopf, N. Ward, C. Hutton, M.Craggs, O. Ciccarelli, A. Gall, K. Friston and A. Thompson: Disability, cortical reorganization and atrophy following spinal cord injury; Brain, 2011 Jun;134(Pt 6):1610-22.

P. Freund, E. Schmidlin, T. Wannier, J. Bloch, A. Mir, M. E. Schwab and E. M. Rouiller: Anti-Nogo-A enhances sprouting and functional recovery after cervical lesion in adult primates. Nature Medicine 2006 Jul; 12(7):790-2.



All publications


Selected Lectures, Seminars or Colloquia

Neurorehabilitation in patients with spinal cord injury (Lehrveranstaltungsnummer: 894, 896, 1261)

RITZ Neurorehabilitation-Symposium, see


Nikolaus Weiskopf (MPI Leipzig), Armin Curt (UZH, Zürich), Alan Thompson (UCL London), John Ashburner (UCL London), Gabriel Ziegler (DZNE, Magdeburg), Karl Friston (UCL London), Siawoosh Mohammadi (UKE, Hamburg), Martina Callaghan (UCL London), Bogdan Draganski (CHUV, Lausanne)



Support by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the grant agreement No 681094, by the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) under contract number 15.0137 in the framework of ERA-NET NEURON, the Swiss National Science foundation (No 320030_179250 and 33IC30_179644), the Wings for life charity (No WFL-CH-007/14) and International Research on Paraplegia.

Curriculum Vitae


2016 PD at University of Zurich
2015 MD (Dr. med) at University of Zurich
2014 Federally accredited examination for Medicine at University of Zurich
2014 Master of Medicine at University of Zurich
2011: Bachelor of Medicine at University of Zürich
2008: PhD (“Dr. rer. nat.”), Bilingual University of Fribourg, CH
Thesis title: “Anti-Nogo-A antibody treatment enhances functional recovery and sprouting of the corticospinal tract after spinal cord injury in adult primates”. Supervisors: Prof. Eric Rouiller and Dr. T. Wannier
2002 - 2005: Graduation in biology (“Dipl.-Biol.”), University of Fribourg, CH


2015-pre Honorary Research Fellow at Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany

2011 - pres.: Groupleader Neuroimaging, University Hospital Balgrist, University of Zürich, Switzerland
2008 - pres.: Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, UCL Institute of Neurology, UK.
2008 - pres.: Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Department of Brain Repair and Rehabilitation, UCL Institute of Neurology, UK