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Spinal Cord Injury Center, Research

Motor Plasticity and Training: Cortical and Spinal Mechanisms

Project leader: PD Dr. Martin Schubert




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Following a lesion, pathways that convey signals from the motor cortex and also spinal circuitry will undergo large scale reorganization in order to compensate for functional loss. The main hypothesis for this study is that both cortical and spinal motor circuits contribute to plasticity and functional adaptation. Our hypothesis is based on the remarkable capacity of the neocortex to undergo plastic adaptive changes post-lesion which allow both supra-spinal plasticity and plasticity of spinal central pattern generators to contribute to functional recovery in incomplete spinal cord injured patients. To test this hypothesis central motor plasticity will be assessed using a standardized neurophysiological method known as paired associative stimulation (PAS). PAS is thought to assess Hebbian associative long-term potentiation noninvasively. In this study, we plan to transfer this specific collision protocol to the spinal level. It is assumed that direct and indirect corticospinal transmission contributes differently to this plasticity.



  • Taube W. Lundbye-Jensen J, Schubert M, Gollhofer A, Leukel C. Evidence that the cortical motor command for the initiation of dynamic plantarflexion consists of excitation followed by inhibition. PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e25657. Epub 2011 Oct 7.
  • Leukel C, Taube W, Beck S, Schubert M. Pathway-specific plasticity in the human spinal cord. Eur J Neurosci. 2012 May;35(10):1622-9. Epub 2012 Apr 4.


External project partners

  • Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Taube, Associate Professor of Sports Sciences, University of Fribourg, Switzerland, Faculty of Science, Department of Medicine
  • Dr. Christian Leukel, University of Freiburg, Germany, Institute of Sport and Sport Science

For further information please contact: PD Dr. Martin Schubert