Motor Control Laboratory

Intro Photo

Led by Catherin Buetefisch, MD, PhD, the Motor Control Laboratory’s research is focused on improving the understanding of mechanisms underlying motor system plasticity and developing means to modulate plasticity with the clinical translational aspect of formulating rehabilitation strategies to improve motor function in neurological patients. Stroke is a leading cause of significant morbidity in the U.S. but identification of treatment strategies to improve recovery is limited by the incomplete understanding of the neurobiological principles of recovery. With the advances in functional and structural MRI, and the introduction of novel electrophysiological techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), studying mechanisms of motor recovery after stroke in humans has become increasingly feasible. Practice-related reorganization of primary motor cortex plays a major role in post-stroke recovery of motor function, and is a primary therapeutic target for rehabilitation. 

For the clinical translational aspect of developing treatment strategies for patients after stroke, the discovery of involvement of similar mechanism such as LTP underlying motor learning and formation of memories was key in formulating hypotheses for the development of effective therapies for stroke recovery. Comprehensive cellular evidence from M1 slice preparations indicates that LTP induction is facilitated by two means, either by pharmacologically enhancing monoaminergic transmission (see Annals of Neurology 2004), or by stimulating cortical afferents in a specific temporal relationship to the depolarization of the synaptic target neuron (Hebbian-type stimulation).