"Paralympic brain". Compensation and reorganization of a damaged human brain with intensive physical training

Kimitaka Nakazawa, Hiroki Obata, Daichi Nozaki, Shintaro Uehara, Pablo Celnik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The main aim of the study was to evaluate how the brain of a Paralympic athlete with severe disability due to cerebral palsy has reorganized after continuous training geared to enhance performance. Both corticospinal excitability of upper-limb muscles and electromyographic activity during swimming were investigated for a Paralympic gold medalist in swimming competitions. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to the affected and intact hand motor cortical area revealed that the affected side finger muscle cortical representation area shifted towards the temporal side, and cortico-spinal excitability of the target muscle was prominently facilitated, i.e., the maximum motor evoked potential in the affected side, 6.11 ± 0.19 mV was greater than that in the intact side, 4.52 ± 0.39 mV (mean ± standard error). Electromyographic activities during swimming demonstrated well-coordinated patterns as compared with rather spastic activities observed in the affected side during walking on land. These results suggest that the ability of the brain to reorganize through intensive training in Paralympic athletes can teach interesting lessons to the field neurorehabilitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number46
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2020


  • Case study
  • Electromyography (EMG)
  • Female
  • Motivation
  • Neurorehabilitation
  • Paralympic sports
  • Swimming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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