Spinal cord plasticity: getting to the how of the matter

It is well known that the nervous system is capable of change. One way that change occurs is through the strengthening or weakening of connections between nerve cells; a process termed synaptic plasticity. In the laboratory, we can produce synaptic changes using stimulation techniques that activate various parts of the […]

Prof Simon Gandevia selects his “Paper of the Year” for 2017

How do we learn things? Sometimes learning occurs over many trials but other times it occurs after single episodes. The traditional view of learning has invoked Hebbian plasticity (Hebb 1949). Here, the concept is that “neurones that wire together, fire together”. Enhanced firing of a post-synaptic cell is thought to […]

Training pays off…even for the untrained hand 4

Training improves task performance due to improved motor control through practice. Intriguingly, training with one limb can improve task performance with the other, untrained limb. This phenomenon is known as interlimb transfer or cross education, and it is important for rehabilitation when the most affected limb cannot engage in training […]

Recovery from stroke after more than 20 years

Much can be learned from case studies of individual patients. This has been shown more than once in the field of stroke research.  The observations by the illustrious neuroanatomist Dr. Brodal of his own stroke are an example (Brodal 1973). A paper recently published in the Journal of Neurophysiology provides […]

One session of strength training makes the spinal cord more excitable 6

Strength training consists of repetitive high-force muscle contractions.  Strength training for four weeks improves maximal strength (Carroll et al. 2011).  These strength gains are primarily the consequence of changes in the nervous system and are not simply due to an increase in muscle size (e.g., Weier et al. 2012).  In […]

More is better: an improved technique for enhancing plasticity in the human spinal cord

Repetitive pairing of stimuli to the motor cortex and peripheral nerves supplying muscles can induce plasticity at synapses between nerve cells that control voluntary muscle activity. This technique has therapeutic potential for enhancing activity at synapses that lie within the spinal cord  and transmit commands from the brain to the […]