CORDIS - EU research results

The Impact of Neural plasticity on the crossed facilitation of motor pathways

Final Activity Report Summary - INPCFMP (The Impact of Neural Plasticity on the Crossed Facilitation of Motor Pathways)

The central aim of the research project was to investigate the clinical potential of novel techniques that permit changes in neural plasticity induced by non-invasive cortical stimulation to be restricted to the parts of the brain that control specific muscles in the upper limb.

Crossed facilitation refers to the phenomenon whereby focal contractions of the muscles on one side of the body give rise to increases in the excitability of the pathways that project to the homologous muscles on the opposite side of the body. Research that was undertaken in the course of the project represents, to the best of our knowledge, the first demonstrations that this 'crossed facilitation' can be used to enhance, and focus in relation to specific muscles, the changes in brain activity induced by non-invasive cortical stimulation. All of the work performed during the course of the project was conducted with young neurologically intact adults. If similar focussed changes in cortical excitability can be invoked in stroke survivors, they are likely to be of therapeutic significance, particularly for those with severe upper limb paresis. In related clinical trials, my research group has shown that even small levels of initial voluntary activity can be used as the basis for a progressive training program that promotes profound recovery of function.

In future extensions of the research undertaken during the project we will seek to establish whether in stroke survivors, simultaneous contractions performed by the non-paretic limb increase the reliability and muscle specificity of changes in the excitability of corticospinal projections to the impaired limb, that are induced by non-invasive brain stimulation techniques.