Nielsen Lab – University of Copenhagen

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Department of Neuroscience > Research Groups > Nielsen Lab

Nielsen Lab

Section and lab leader: Professor Jens Bo Nielsen

The research in the group is divided into four major focus areas:

Motor learning, neuroplasticity and neurorehabilitation:

The purpose of the research is to gain insight in basic principles and mechanisms of motor learning, the neuroplastic changes in the central nervous system (CNS) underlying motor learning and the relationship between neuroplasticity and behavioral changes. A more applied goal of our research activity is to utilize knowledge of mechanisms in motor learning in order to improve the design of motor training and rehabilitation strategies.

Our work has primarily focused on the human motor system and the research involves experiments in healthy volunteers, but also motor learning in children, elderly people and motor learning in patients with neurological disorders.

In our approach to motor learning we focus on neuroplastic changes at multiple levels within the CNS from changes in cerebral cortex organization to changes at a spinal level. In order to do so, we utilize and combine various electrophysiological and neuroimaging techniques in the context of well-defined hypothesis-driven investigations. The methods include among other transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), electroencephalography (EEG), peripheral nerve stimulation and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI).

Cognitive motor neuroscience:

We study the interaction between basic motor control theory and higher order cognitive processes. The research has elements of purely cognitive processes, such as questions dealing with conscious visual perception, and also purely motor control elements, such as the neural pathways responsible for efference copies. Between those poles we address a broad continuum of scientific questions, such as decision making, volition, conscious perception of movements, and how visual feedback influence perception of movements. We address these questions by combining motor and cognitive tests with advanced non-invasive electrophysiological (TMS, EEG) and imaging techniques (fMRI).

Pathophysiology of spasticity and contractures

We perform parallel experiments in animal models (rat, mouse), healthy human subjects and people with spasticity (cerebral palsy, stroke, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis) in order to clarify the pathophysiological mechanisms of spasticity and contractures. This works involves analysis of signaling mechanisms at molecular level combined with electrophysiological and behavioural analyses in animals and humans. A major aim of the research is to optimize treatment of spasticity and contractures.

Neurodevelopment and cerebral palsy

The purpose of this research is to obtain a fundamental understanding of the developing brain and the adaptations that occur in relation to early brain lesions. Based on this knowledge we strive to find new ways of improving quality of life for children and adults with CP. This involves development and testing of new interventions, therapies and technologies. This work has resulted in the creation of two biotech companies (MiTii, Movotec) based on patented inventions.

Key publications last 10 years