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Spinal Cord Injury Center, Research

Intramuscular and cortico-muscular coherence analysis in SCI

Project leader: PD Dr. Martin Schubert


Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating life-changing event leaving patients with impairment of motor and sensory function. Mainstay for treatment is still limited to rehabilitation by physical therapy and training. However, in incomplete SCI neuroplasticity and repair mechanisms are considered to contribute to recovery of paresis. Their contribution to spontaneous and rehabilitation related recovery is not well understood. Pharmacological, immunological and cell based therapies are under current investigation in ongoing clinical trials to improve functional outcomes. In this context it is a challenge to prove efficacy of new therapies for SCI.

Coherence analysis quantified by synchronization of muscle and brain electrical activity and assessments using transcranial magnetic stimulation shall serve as a non-invasive neurophysiological tool to test cortico-spinal motor control during the course of recovery: During activity such as walking or foot dorsiflexion, coherence is based on common synaptic drive to functional motoneurons due to supraspinal control. Absence or reduction of coherence is suggested as physiological marker of impaired supraspinal control in SCI. Analysis will be related to clinical and functional recovery and to anatomical changes assessed with modern neuroimaging. Ultimately, a new clinical assessments tool will be developed which can serve as a biomarker to monitor neuroplasticity during functional recovery in patients with SCI. This is highly relevant to distinguish natural recovery from potential treatment effects in the early phase of SCI.


For further information please contact: PD Dr. Martin Schubert

External cooperation with Prof. Bernhard Conway