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J Neurophysiol. 2017 Oct 1;118(4):2412-2420. doi: 10.1152/jn.00878.2016. Epub 2017 Aug 2.

Altered modulation of sensorimotor rhythms with chronic paralysis.

Foldes ST1,2,3,4, Weber DJ2,3,5, Collinger JL6,2,3,5.

Author information

Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Department of Veterans Affairs, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children's Hospital, Phoenix, Arizona; and.
Department of Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Department of Veterans Affairs, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania;


After paralysis, the disconnection between the cortex and its peripheral targets leads to neuroplasticity throughout the nervous system. However, it is unclear how chronic paralysis specifically impacts cortical oscillations associated with attempted movement of impaired limbs. We hypothesized that μ- (8-13 Hz) and β- (15-30 Hz) event-related desynchronization (ERD) would be less modulated for individuals with hand paralysis due to cervical spinal cord injury (SCI). To test this, we compared the modulation of ERD from magnetoencephalography (MEG) during attempted and imagined grasping performed by participants with cervical SCI (n = 12) and able-bodied controls (n = 13). Seven participants with tetraplegia were able to generate some electromyography (EMG) activity during attempted grasping, whereas the other five were not. The peak and area of ERD were significantly decreased for individuals without volitional muscle activity when they attempted to grasp compared with able-bodied subjects and participants with SCI,with some residual EMG activity. However, no significant differences were found between subject groups during mentally simulated tasks (i.e., motor imagery) where no muscle activity or somatosensory consequences were expected. These findings suggest that individuals who are unable to produce muscle activity are capable of generating ERD when attempting to move, but the characteristics of this ERD are altered. However, for people who maintain volitional muscle activity after SCI, there are no significant differences in ERD characteristics compared with able-bodied controls. These results provide evidence that ERD is dependent on the level of intact muscle activity after SCI.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Source space MEG was used to investigate sensorimotor cortical oscillations in individuals with SCI. This study provides evidence that individuals with cervical SCI exhibit decreased ERD when they attempt to grasp if they are incapable of generating muscle activity. However, there were no significant differences in ERD between paralyzed and able-bodied participants during motor imagery. These results have important implications for the design and evaluation of new therapies, such as motor imagery and neurofeedback interventions.


event-related desynchronization; magnetoencephalography; paralysis; sensorimotor rhythms; spinal cord injury

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