Highlights on the Motor System, Exercise, and Rehabilitation

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Highlights on the Motor System, Exercise, and Rehabilitation


Motor learning is imperative throughout development and during rehabilitation of neural injury. Several strategies to improve motor learning have gained much interest recently including non-invasive brain stimulation and exercise. The voluntary movements symposium featured several researchers examining the neural mechanisms underlying motor learning and ways to improve it.

#SfN18 #motor @jasonlneva discussed how #TMS measures reveal there are separate groups of interneurons specialized for sequence motor learning and for skilled motor control. #neurostim #NIBS

— Dana&TheMonsters (@DanaSwarbrick) November 4, 2018

Specifically, applying a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) pulse in an anterior to posterior direction uniquely primed sequence-specific motor learning and applying a pulse in the posterior to anterior direction primed those neurons responsible for skilled motor control.

#SfN18 @UBC_BrainLab @smpeters9 presented her research that complements @jasonlneva. After 20min moderate exercise: preferential activation of interneurons sensitive to anterior-posterior induced current--the same interneurons specialized for sequence specific learning. #UBC

— Dana&TheMonsters (@DanaSwarbrick) November 4, 2018

Previous research has shown that an acute bout of high-intensity as opposed to moderate-intensity exercise results in the greatest enhancements to motor learning. Dr. James Coxon corroborated this using intermittent theta burst stimulation to measure neuroplasticity.

Motor nanosymposium #SfN18@coxontweets discusses his research showing there may be a dose-response relationship for the effects of exercise on neuroplasticity where high-intensity is better than moderate. @MoveNeuro #neuro #HIIT #neuroexercise

— Dana&TheMonsters (@DanaSwarbrick) November 4, 2018

While research has consistently shown that an acute bout of high-intensity exercise causes increased neuroplasticity and improved motor consolidation, research has also shown that genetics and fitness mediate these effects. Since non-invasive brain stimulation is more effective in women and when estradiol levels are higher, it is possible that the neuroplastic effects of exercise may be similarly moderated by menstrual cycle phase.

Super cool research from El-Sayes and @cturco10 showing that contrary to #NIBS menstrual phase has no impact on exercise excitability, but: #Females who release more #BDNF in #exercise showed greater increase in excitability but not #males!!! pic.twitter.com/yfC2IZ4mrr

— Dana&TheMonsters (@DanaSwarbrick) November 5, 2018

Exercise is not only useful for motor learning, but also for cognition. A poster presented by Dr. Thomas Tollner explored cognitive processing during aerobic exercise using a cognitive task and an event-related EEG approach. Conditions involving exercise (cycling and treadmill) and conditions involving standing (stationary standing and treadmill) improved visual target processing.

Thomas and @GordonDodwell present research showing that standing and #exercise improve visual working #memory and there's a neurophysiological basis for these enhancements! #SfN18 #EEG pic.twitter.com/c2f5sPlXx1

— Dana&TheMonsters (@DanaSwarbrick) November 6, 2018

While much of the research on motor learning has explored the acute effects of exercise, the long-term effects of maintaining an exercise routine are very important. Adam Lundquist explored the time-course and locations of neural morphological changes associated with daily exercise.

#SfN18 @lundquistaj @KeckMedUSC working with @gpetzinger presents research showing moderate #exercise causes region- and time-specific changes to #astrocyte morphology and metabolism pic.twitter.com/8gWdqE9gbA

— Dana&TheMonsters (@DanaSwarbrick) November 7, 2018

Lundquist goes on to suggest that due to the morphological changes driven by daily exercise, exercise may be an important rehabilitation intervention for people with Parkinson’s disease. Other posters also highlighted the potential for neurotechnology and pharmaceutical interventions to assist in rehabilitation of spinal cord injury and stroke.

#SfN18 Dr. Wagner and co. @EPFL presented #research showing #surgical implantation of #electrical array paired with #robotic assistance resulted in immediate #recovery of #walking in #paraplegic patients #SCI #rehab #neurorehab #motor @rehabINK pic.twitter.com/AJknoXOcJJ

— Dana&TheMonsters (@DanaSwarbrick) November 12, 2018

Dr. JB Mignardot @EPFL presented #research showing #surgical implantation of lumbar electrical #stimulation array in combination with weight-supported #therapy allowed paraplegic #SCI injured #patients to walk with assistive #devices! #neurorehab #SfN18 pic.twitter.com/ApaddLjw5l

— Dana&TheMonsters (@DanaSwarbrick) November 12, 2018

During a symposium on spinal cord injury with a special focus on inhibiting inhibitors, Dr. Martin Schwab discussed the struggles and successes he has encountered in development, financing, and execution of clinical trials.

Dr. Martin Schwab discusses his inhibition of an inhibitor: Nogo-A prevents growth of neurites. Anti-Nogo-A antibodies and #rehab lead to complete #recovery in rats with #stroke @rehabINK #SfN18 #neurorehab

— Dana&TheMonsters (@DanaSwarbrick) November 5, 2018

I am looking forward to hearing more about Dr. Schwab’s phase II clinical trial, and all of the other incredible progress that will be revealed at next year’s Society for Neuroscience conference!

Ta ta for now!


Dana Swarbrick