Increased paired stimuli enhance corticospinal-motoneuronal plasticity in humans with spinal cord injury

Francis M. Grover, Bing Chen, Monica A. Perez*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Paired corticospinal-motoneuronal stimulation (PCMS) has been used to enhance corticospinal excitability and functional outcomes in humans with spinal cord injury (SCI). Here, we examined the effect of increasing the number of paired pulses on PCMS-induced plasticity. During PCMS, corticospinal volleys evoked by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over the hand motor cortex were timed to arrive at corticospinal-motoneuronal synapses of the first dorsal interosseous (FDI) muscle 1–2 ms before the arrival of antidromic potentials elicited in motoneurons by electrical stimulation of the ulnar nerve. We tested motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) elicited by TMS over the hand motor cortex and electrical stimulation at the cervicomedullary junction (CMEPs) in the FDI muscle before and after 180 paired pulses (PCMS-180) followed up by another 180 paired pulses (PCMS-360) in humans with and without chronic incomplete cervical SCI. The nine-hole-peg-test (9HPT) was measured before and after PCMS paired pulses in individuals with SCI. We found that the size of MEPs and CMEPs increased after PCMS-180 in both groups compared with baseline and further increased after PCMS-360 in participants with SCI, suggesting a spinal origin for these effects. Notably, in people with SCI, the time to complete the 9HPT decreased after PCMS-180 and further decreased after PCMS-360 compared with baseline but not when the 9HPT was repeated overtime. Our findings demonstrate that increasing the number of PCMS paired pulses potentiates corticospinal excitability and voluntary motor output after SCI, likely through spinal plasticity. This proof-of-principle study suggests that increasing the PCMS dose represents a strategy to boost voluntary motor output after SCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1414-1422
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • corticospinal pathway
  • neurophysiology
  • neuroplasticity
  • rehabilitation
  • spike-timing-dependent plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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