Pioneering Rehabilitation

Mar Cortes, M.D.

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

Instructor of Neurology
Weill Cornell Medical College

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.

My studies focus on improving the understanding of mechanisms of neural 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, such as spinal cord injury or stroke.

My main interest is to study the recovery of motor function after injury for the central nervous system, focusing on the corticospinal system. My aim is to investigate the role of controlled motor activity and non-invasive stimulation techniques, in restoring the connections between the cerebral cortex and the spinal cord that controls movements. I use a combination of behavioral (robotic training) and electrophysiological techniques to address those questions.

After injury the preserved corticospinal connections are highly activity-dependent and can be strengthened with activity-based therapies (motor training) or neuromodulatory interventions (by using transcranial magnetic stimulation – TMS; direct current brain stimulation – tDCS; or/and electrical stimulation).

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



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

Honors & Awards

Young Investigator Award
NYC Neuromodulation Conference 2013
November 2013
For prominent neuromodulation research from young investigator.

Neurotrauma Travel Grant
Centre for Neuromuscular and Neurological Disorders (CNND). University of Western Australia (UWA). Australia
May 2012


Research Gate: researchgate.net/profile/Mar_Cortes

Linked In: linkedin.com/pub/mar-cortes/2b/260/130

Google Scholar: scholar.google.com/citations?hl=en&btnA=1&user=dSUiYCAAAAAJ

PubMed: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=Cortes%20M%5BAuthor%5D


Citations via Google Scholar | PubMed

Gomes-Osman J, Cortes M, Guest J, Pascual-Leone A. A systematic review of experimental strategies aimed at improving motor function after acute and chronic spinal cord injury. J Neurotrauma. 2015 Sep 28.[Epub ahead of print] PMID: 26415105

Thickbroom GW, Cortes M, Rykman A, Volpe BT, Fregni F, Krebs HI, Pascual-Leone A, Edwards DJ. Stroke subtype and motor impairment influence contralesional excitability. Neurology. 2015 Jul 17. pii: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000001828. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 26187228

Murray LM, Edwards DJ, Ruffini G, Labar D, Stampas A, Pascual-Leone A, Cortes M (2015). Intensity dependent effects of transcranial direct current stimulation on corticospinal excitability in chronic spinal cord injury. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 2015 Apr;96(4 Suppl):S114-21 PMID: 25461825

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 PMID: 25538216

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. PMID: 25406224

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 Sep;52(9):718. doi: 10.1038/sc.2014.117. Epub 2014 Jul 22. No abstract available. PMID: 25047055

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.

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. 2013 Oct;10(4):808-16. doi: 10.1007/s13311-013-0224-3. Review. PMID: 23949034

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. Oct;51(10):765-7. doi: 10.1038/sc.2013.74. Epub 2013 Jul 30. PMID: 23896664

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

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. 2013;33(1):57-65. doi: 10.3233/NRE-130928. PMID: 23949034

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. 2012 Jul;15(4):316-25. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1403.2012.00459.x. Epub 2012 May 24. Review. PMID: 22624621

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

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. 2011 Nov;122(11):2254-9. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2011.02.038. Epub 2011 Apr 23. PMID:21524606

Book Chapters

Assessment and Enhancement of Human Brain Plasticity Using Electromagnetic Stimulation Mar Cortes, Alvaro Pascual-Leone, Dylan J Edwards, Ana H Medeiros

Plasticity of Cognition in Neurologic Disorders, 10/2014: chapter Assessment and Enhancement of Human Brain Plasticity Using Electromagnetic Stimulation: pages 363; Oxford University Press.

ABSTRACT: In a historical context, the concept of brain plasticity is new. The extent to which brain plasticity underlies human adaptive behavior and cognition, in both health and disease, has emerged as a field at the forefront of scientific discovery. At least 50 years of exploration in this area, together with progressively advancing technology, have enabled the rapid advancement of, and innovative approaches to, the examination and treatment of human neurological disorders.


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

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

Jordi Valles Ortega
Fenexy Foundation

Alvaro Pascual-Leone, MD, PhD
Harvard Medical School

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

Gary Thickbroom
University of Western Australia


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 – 06/30/2015.
Role: Co-Investigator
Goals:Neuromodulation using non-invasive stimulation techniques in humans is one of the most promising advances in treatment of neurological damage. While extensive work has been done in developing these techniques for therapy targeting the brain, there has been little emphasis on targeting spinal cord directly. We recently a developed a human repetitive stimulation paradigm to target spinal cord that is safe, effective, well tolerated, and results in lasting spinal excitability enhancement.

In the present study we aim to: (1) determine if spinal excitability is raised following spinal associative stimulation (SAS) in SCI subjects with lower limb paralysis, (2) examine the time-course of after effects, and (3) establish the functional consequences by measuring the change in voluntary motor activation associated with raised spinal excitability.

News & Media

June 22-26, 2015
Dr. Cortes lectures at the Intensive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Course, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Harvard University).
Her lecture title is ‘Central and peripheral stimulation’

May 20-25, 2015
Dr. Cortes and other BMRI researchers participate in the Red Bull Endurance Project 3.0 ‘Human Testing: how altitude affects performance’. Six elite athletes undergo extreme testing at different altitudes (from Death Valley to Mammoth Mountain) to understand how to maximize human performance.

March 2-4, 2015
Invited speaker at the 1st International Brain Stimulation Conference at the Singapore Expo Convention and Exhibition Centre, Singapore
Dr. Cortes gave a talk about ‘How to use Computational Models to Optimize Brain Stimulation: Physiologic mapping and modeling of motor targets for neuromodulation in spinal cord injury’

January 9-11, 2015
Scientific Committee Member of the NYC Neuromodulation Conference 2015

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

June 1, 2013
The Noninvasive Brain Stimulation Laboratory appears in a nationally televised CNN story on the business and life success of spinal cord injury patient Francesco Clark. The video shows the work that has been done in our laboratory with the aim of restoring Mr. Clarke’s motor function using brain stimulation (TMS)-guided therapies.

March 20, 2013
Brain therapy, Lyme breakthroughs fueled by federal stimulus
The Journal News
Dr. Mar Cortes is interviewed by The Journal News, where she explains how some of the therapies and treatment for brain injuries at the Burke Medical Research Institute in White Plains have been made possible thanks to federal stimulus money from the National Institutes of Health.