Modulation of inhibitory systems to enhance motor rehabilitation: Insights for the use of noninvasive brain stimulation

Jay S. Reidler, Bruno C. Nascimento, Daniel S.K. Wu, Marcelo Carvas, Breno K. Massuyama, Bruno M.R. de Oliveira, Soroush Zaghi, Daniel T. de Rezende, Rasheda El-Nazer, Walyson N. Gonçalves, Lotfi B. Merabet, Felipe Fregni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Motor impairment following stroke is a leading cause of disability in adults. Despite advances in motor rehabilitation techniques, many adult stroke survivors never approach full functional recovery. Intriguingly, children exhibit better rehabilitation outcomes when compared to adults suffering from comparable brain injuries, yet the reasons for this remain unclear. A common explanation is that neuroplasticity in adults is substantially limited following stroke, thus constraining its ability to reorganize in response to neurological insult. This explanation, however, does not suffice for there is much evidence suggesting that neuroplasticity in adults is not limited following stroke. We hypothesize that diminished functional recovery in adults is in part due to inhibitory neuronal interactions, such as transcallosal inhibition, that serve to optimize motor performance as the brain matures. Following stroke, these inhibitory interactions pose rigid barriers to recovery by inhibiting activity in the affected regions and hindering recruitment of compensatory pathways. In contrast, children exhibit better rehabilitation outcomes in part because they have not fully developed the inhibitory interactions that impede functional recovery in adults. We suggest that noninvasive brain stimulation can be used in the context of motor rehabilitation following stroke to reduce the effects of existing inhibitory connections, effectively returning the brain to a state that is more amenable to rehabilitation. We conclude by discussing further research to explore this hypothesis and its implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychology and Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Motor recovery
  • Plasticity
  • Rehabilitation
  • Stroke
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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