How plastic are human spinal cord motor circuitries?

Lasse Christiansen, Jesper Lundbye-Jensen, Monica A Perez, Jens Bo Nielsen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Human and animal studies have documented that neural circuitries in the spinal cord show adaptive changes caused by altered supraspinal and/or afferent input to the spinal circuitry in relation to learning, immobilization, injury and neurorehabilitation. Reversible adaptations following, e.g. the acquisition or refinement of a motor skill rely heavily on the functional integration between supraspinal and sensory inputs to the spinal cord networks. Accordingly, what is frequently conceived as a change in the spinal circuitry may be a change in either descending or afferent input or in the relative integration of these, i.e. a change in the neuronal weighting. This is evident from findings documenting only task-specific functional changes after periods of altered inputs whereas resting responses remain unaffected. In fact, the proximity of the spinal circuitry to the outer world may demand a more rigid organization compared to the highly flexible cortical circuits. The understanding of all of this is important for the planning and execution of neurorehabilitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3243-3249
Number of pages7
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017


  • Humans
  • Motor control
  • Plasticity
  • Reflexes
  • Spinal cord

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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