Pioneering Rehabilitation

Mar Cortes, M.D.

Clinical Scientist, Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation and Human Motor Control Laboratory

Instructor of Neurology
Weill Cornell Medical College

Lecturer, Intensive Course in Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Harvard Medical School 


(914) 368-3181

Research Focus

My research interest is to understand neural plasticity and its clinical implications in relation to the human motor systems. Plasticity is a broad phenomenon comprising both positive and negative features. For example, plasticity encompasses neural development and learning and recovery of function following neural damage, but also can be a maladaptive response to injury or disease, such as in forms of dystonia and chronic pain. My goal is to improve understanding of the mechanisms of plasticity from a systems level in humans, in order to manipulate them, by suppressing or enhancing them, to gain clinical benefits for patients affected by neurological disorders.

My main interest is to study the recovery of motor function after injury to the central nervous system, focusing on the corticospinal system. After injury the preserved corticospinal connections are highly activity-dependent and can be strengthened with activity-based therapies (motor training) or neuromodulatory interventions (transcranial magnetic or direct current brain stimulation). My aim is to investigate the role of controlled motor activity, and non-invasive stimulation techniques, in promoting corticospinal plasticity, and its relation with motor recovery. I use a combination of behavioral and electrophysiological techniques to address those questions.

My ultimate career goal is to develop novel and individualized rehabilitation strategies to promote motor recovery and improve quality of life of patients with disabilities.


University of the Basque Country, Spain

Resident, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Bellvitge University Hospital. Barcelona, Spain

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Intensive Course.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School. Boston, MA

Research Fellow
Clinical Neurophysiology and Non-invasive Brain Stimulation.
Non-invasive Brain Stimulation and Human Motor Control Laboratory, Burke Medical Research Institute. White Plains, NY


Labar DR, Cortes M, Edwards D. Long-term repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy: new research questions arising from one tinnitus case? BMJ Case Rep. 2014 Dec 23;2014. pii: bcr2014207203. doi: 10.1136/bcr-2014-207203.

Murray LM, Edwards DJ, Ruffini G, Labar D, Stampas A, Pascual-Leone A, Cortes MIntensity dependent effects of tDCS on corticospinal excitability in chronic Spinal Cord Injury. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2014 Nov 22. pii: S0003-9993(14)01266-0. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2014.11.004. [Epub ahead of print]

Grimaldi G, Argyropoulos GP, Bastian A, Cortes M, Davis NJ, Edwards DJ, Ferrucci R, Fregni F, Galea JM, Hamada M, Manto M, Miall RC, Morales-Quezada L, Pope PA, Priori A, Rothwell J, Tomlinson SP, Celnik P. Cerebellar Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (ctDCS): A Novel Approach to Understanding Cerebellar Function in Health and Disease. Neuroscientist. 2014 Nov 18. pii: 1073858414559409. [Epub ahead of print] Review.

Edwards DJ, Medeiros AH, Cortes M, Pascual-Leone A. (2014) Assessment and Enhancement of Human Brain Plasticity Using Electromagnetic Stimulation In JI Tracy, BM Hampstead, & S Kathian (Eds.), Cognitive Plasticity in Neurologic Disorders (pp. 363-391). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Edwards DJ, Cortes M, Thickbroom GW, Rykman A, Pascual-Leone A, Volpe BT. Reply: Evidence against volume conduction to explain normal MEPs in muscles with low motor power in SCI. Spinal Cord. 2014 Jul 22. doi: 10.1038/sc.2014.117.

Elder J, Cortes M, Rykman A, Hill J, Karuppagounder S, Edwards D, Ratan RR (2013). The Epigenetics of Stroke Recovery and Rehabilitation: From Polycomb to Histone Deacetylases. Neurotherapeutics. 10(4):808-16.

Edwards D, Cortes M, Thickbroom G, Rykman A, Pascual-Leone A, Volpe B. (2013). Preserved corticospinal conduction without voluntary movement after spinal cord injury. Spinal Cord

Cortes M, Elder J, RykmanA, Murray L, Avedissian M, Stampas A, Thickbroom GW, Pascual-Leone A, Krebs I, Josep Valls-Sole J, Edwards DJ. (2013). Improved motor performance in chronic spinal cord injury following upper-limb robotic training. NeuroRehabilitation.

Edwards D, Cortes M, Datta A, Minhas P, Wassermann EM, Bikson M. (2013). Physiological and modeling evidence for focal transcranial electrical brain stimulation in humans: A basis for high-definition tDCS. Neuroimage. 2013 Jul 1;74C:266-275. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.01.042. Epub 2013 Jan 28. PMID: 23370061

Conesa L, Costa Ú, Morales E, Edwards DJ, Cortes M, León D, Bernabeu M, Medina J. (2012). An observational report of intensive robotic and manual gait training in sub-acute stroke. J Neuroeng Rehabil; 9:13. doi: 10.1186/1743-0003-9-13. PMCID: PMC3305481

Cortes M, Black-Schaffer RM, Edwards DJ. (2012). Transcranial magnetic stimulation as an investigative tool for motor dysfunction and recovery in stroke: an overview for neurorehabilitation clinicians. Neuromodulation; 15(4):316-25. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1403.2012.00459.x. PMID: 22624621.

Benito-Penalva J, Edwards DJ, Opisso E, Cortes M, Lopez-Blazquez R, Murillo N, Costa U, Tormos JM, Vidal-Samsó J, Valls-Solé J; European Multicenter Study about Human Spinal Cord Injury Study Group, Medina J.  (2011). Gait training in human spinal cord injury using electromechanical systems: effect of device type and patient characteristics. Arch Phys Med Rehabil; 93(3):404-12. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2011.08.028. PMID: 22209475

Cortes M, Thickbroom GW, Valls-Sole J, Pascual-Leone A, Edwards DJ. (2011).  Spinal associative stimulation: a non-invasive stimulation paradigm to modulate spinal excitability. Clin Neurophysiol; 122(11):2254-9. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2011.02.038. PMCID: PMC3538079. 


Dylan Edwards, PhD, P.T. - Burke Medical Research Institute

Alvaro Pascual-Leone, MD, PhD - Harvard Medical School

Josep Sole-Valls, MD, PhD - Hospital Clinic, Barcelona, Spain.

Marom Bikson, PhD - The City College of The City University of New York


National Institutes of Health
 R01 HD069776.
Title: Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation and Robotic Motor Training in Chronic Stroke.
Dates of project: 12/01/2011 – 11/30/2016.
Role: Research fellow.  
Goals: The major goal of this project is to evaluate whether multiple sessions of combined tDCS and robotic upper limb training in chronic hemiplegia, leads to a sustained clinical improvement in motor function.

National Institutes of Health 

Title: Non-invasive stimulation for improving motor function in spinal cord injury.
Dates of project: 07/01/2013 – 06/30/15.
Role: Co-Investigator. 
Our hypothesis is that spinal excitability will be raised following SAS in chronic traumatic incomplete SCI patients and that this will be associated with improved motor performance.

Media & Professional Activities

June 12, 2014
Dr. Cortes and other BMRI scientists teamed up with Red Bull Project Endurance to study the brains of elite athletes and better understand why athletes stop and slow down.  Watch a video documenting their intense week-long training program: "How Does the Brain of an Elite Athlete Work?" 

May 7, 2014
At the 2014 NYC tDCS Workshop, Dr. Cortes served as moderator for two expert panels: "tDCS in Combination with Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy" and  "tDCS with Pharmacotherapy."

November 23, 2013
Dr. Cortes wins the Young Investigator Award at the inaugural NYC Neuromodulation Conference!