Human Cortical Physiology Section
Division of Intramural Research

Leonardo G. Cohen  Image

 Leonardo G. Cohen  M.D., Senior Investigator

Dr. Cohen received his MD from the University of Buenos Aires. He did his neurology residency at Georgetown University and received postdoctoral training in clinical neurophysiology at the Department of Neurology, University of California (Irvine) and in motor control and movement disorders at the Human Motor Control Section, NINDS. In 1998 he became chief of the Human Cortical Physiology Section, NINDS. He received the prestigious Humboldt award (1999) from the Republic of Germany and is an elected member of the American Neurological Association. Dr. Cohen's lab is interested in the mechanisms underlying plastic changes in the human central nervous system and in the development of novel therapeutic approaches for recovery of function based on the understanding of these mechanisms.

Laboratory Staff

Adriana Comforto , M.D. Medical Staff Fellow 301 402 3497
Peter Gorman , M.D. Special Volunteer 301 402 8231
Alain Kaelin-Lang , M.D. Medical Staff Fellow 301 496 0154
Lumy Sawaki , M.D., Ph.D. Visiting Fellow 301 435 1578
Konrad Werhahn , M.D. Visiting Fellow 301 496 9986
Carolyn Wu , Ph.D. Visiting Fellow 301 435 1581
Leonardo G. Cohen  Staff Image

Research Interests

The goal of our activity is to understand the mechanisms underlying plastic changes in the human central nervous system and develop novel therapeutic approaches for recovery of function based on these advances. Most of our work has focused in plasticity of the human motor system. More recently, we became interested in the study of plastic changes across sensory modalities (blindness). We have studied plastic changes in patients with lesions in the central nervous system like hemispherectomy, stroke, and spinal cord injury and in the peripheral nervous system like amputations. In healthy volunteers, we studied plastic changes associated with transient deafferentation.

The main technique employed is transcranial magnetic stimulation. In this respect we are interested in the development of this technique as a tool to help us to understand mechanisms of human plasticity and to modulate plastic changes in humans. A multimodality approach is applied to the understanding of mechanisms of plasticity including PET scanning, fMRI, and EEG when appropriate. Our research protocols are focused in the evaluation of patients with stroke, amputations, and blindness and to the study of plasticity in healthy volunteers (see NIH Clinical Center home page).

Our work in the last few years has focused on the assessment of plastic changes in human motor function after a variety of interventions and injuries. We have advanced in the understanding of the mechanisms, time-profile and site where plasticity takes place after a variety of disorders. Our future goals are to improve our understanding of the mechanisms underlying plasticity of function in humans and its functional relevance. On the basis of these mechanisms, we are starting to design and test interventions to improve motor disability after human diseases, for example stroke.


Role of the occipital cortex in sighted and blind volunteers in "reading" the shape of letters using tactile information.
Drug Refractory Partial Epilepsy, A Therapeutic Trial with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Connectivity of Occipital and Somatosensory Cortical Areas in Blind Subjects
Neuroanatomical and Neurophysiological Basis of Motor Recovery Associated with Treatment of Recent Stroke Using Amphetamine and Physical Therapy
Can Stimulation of Frontal Cortical Regions Facilitate Performance on Tests of Procedural Implicit Learning and Analogical Reasoning?
Mechanisms of Plasticity in the Human Motor System
Phantom Pain: A Therapeutic Trial Using Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Enhancement of Plasticity in Human Motor Cortex Using Amphetamine
Hemispheric Lateralization of Language Receptive Function in the Deaf and in Hearing Individuals Who Learned ASL as First Language
Can Subthreshold Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) to Motor Cortex and/or to Supplementary Motor Area (SMA) Improve Performance of Complex Motor Sequences in Parkinson's Disease?
Functional Changes Associated with Recovery of Motor Function in ChronicIschemic Subcortical Stroke After a Therapeutic Intervention

Selected Recent Publications

Butefisch C, Davis B, Classen J, Wise S, Sawaki L, Kopylev L and LG Cohen
Mechanisms of use-dependent plasticity in human motor cortex - Proc Nat Acad Sci 97 3661-5 --2000

Boroojerdi B, Buchara KO, Corwell B, Immish I, Battaglia F, Muellbacher W and LG Cohen
Enhanced excitability of the human visual cortex induced by short-term light deprivation - Cerebral Cortex 10 529-34 --2000

Ziemann U, Corwell B and LG Cohen
Modulation of plasticity in human motor cortex after ischemic nerve block - J Neurosci 18 1115-23 --1998

Chen R, Tam A, Butefisch C, Corwell B, Ziemann U, Rothwell J, and Cohen LG
Intracortical inhibition and facilitation in different representations of the human motor cortex - J Neurophysiol 80 2870-81 --1998

Cohen LG, Celnik P, Pascual-Leone A, Faiz L, Corwell B, Honda M, Sadato H, Gerloff C, Catala MD and M Hallett
Functional relevance of crossmodal plasticity in the blind - Nature 389 180-2 --1997

Selected Earlier Publications

Contact Information

Human Cortical Physiology Section Medical Neurology Branch, NINDS Building 10, Room 5N234 10 Center Drive MSC 1430 Bethesda MD 20892-1430

Telephone:301-496 9782 (office)- (laboratory),301-402 1007 (fax)Email:

Last Reviewed: 03-01-2001


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