Skip to content

First human study targets cortical neurons in the brain to improve motor function.

The spinal cord is extremely vulnerable to injury, however, unlike other parts of the body this extension of the brain does not have the ability to repair itself when damaged. A spinal cord injury (SCI) occurs when there is damage either from trauma, loss of blood supply, or pressure due to a tumor or infection. The main goal of rehabilitation in humans with SCI is to strengthen transmission in spared neural networks. Although neuromodulation has the ability to target many different sites within the central nervous system to restore motor function following SCI, the role of cortical targets remains poorly understood.  Now, a study from researchers at the University of Miami uses a non-invasive cortical target in the brain to enhance hand motor function in patients with SCI.  The team states their study provides the first evidence that cortical targets in the frontal lobe could represent a novel therapeutic site for improving motor function in humans paralyzed by SCI.  The study is published in the journal Brain.

Previous studies show in movement disorders neuromodulation targets brain structures, such as cranial nerves, the spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system via electrical or neurochemical stimulation.  Usually, electrical epidural spinal cord stimulation is used to alleviate various disorders of the motor system in patients with SCI.  It has been hypothesized neurostimulation may lead to the development of new nerve pathways or reawaken pre-existing connections between the brain and limbs.  The current study provides the first evidence that cortical targets could represent a novel therapeutic site for improving motor function following SCI.

The current study utilizes noninvasive transcranial magnetic stimulation over the primary motor cortex, one of the principal brain areas involved in motor function housing corticospinal neurons.  Results show the activity of corticospinal projections to intrinsic finger muscles increased in SCI patients and uninjured participants for 30 to 60 minutes after the stimulation. Data findings show individuals with SCI were able to exert more force and electromyographic activity with finger muscles after the stimulation showing an enhanced ability to grasp small objects with their hands.

The lab states their study provides several pieces of important information regarding the development of strategies to improve function following SCI. They go on to add contrary to years of dogma, their study demonstrated positive functional plasticity potential persists within the sensorimotor system for years after an SCI.

The team surmises their study provides a novel long-term cortical target to repair hand motor output in humans with SCI.  For the future, the researchers state they are now testing the effect of this intervention when given on consecutive days in patients exhibiting more severe muscle paralysis.

Source: University of Miami

Get Healthinnovations delivered to your inbox:

Healthinnovations View All

Michelle Petersen is the founder of Healthinnovations, having worked in the health and science industry for over 21 years, which includes tenure within the NHS and Oxford University. Healthinnovations is a publication that has reported on, influenced, and researched current and future innovations in health for the past decade.

Michelle has been picked up as an expert writer for Informa publisher’s Clinical Trials community, as well as being listed as a blog source by the world’s leading medical journals, including the acclaimed Nature-Springer journal series.

Healthinnovations is currently indexed by the trusted Altmetric and PlumX metrics systems, respectively, as a blog source for published research globally. Healthinnovations is also featured in the world-renowned BioPortfolio, BioPortfolio.com, the life science, pharmaceutical and healthcare portal.

Most recently the Texas A&M University covered The Top 10 Healthinnovations series on their site with distinguished Professor Stephen Maren calling the inclusion of himself and his team on the list a reflection of “the hard work and dedication of my students and trainees”.

Michelle Petersen’s copy was used in the highly successful marketing campaign for the mega-hit film ‘Jumanji: The Next Level, starring Jack Black, Karen Gilian, Kevin Hart and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Michelle Petersen’s copywriting was part of the film’s coverage by the Republic TV network. Republic TV is the most-watched English language TV channel in India since its inception in 2017.

An avid campaigner in the fight against child sex abuse and trafficking, Michelle is a passionate humanist striving for a better quality of life for all humans by helping to provide traction for new technologies and techniques within healthcare.

One thought on “First human study targets cortical neurons in the brain to improve motor function. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Translate »