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Simon Giszter

Simon Giszter, PhD


Department: Neurobiology & Anatomy


  • PhD - University of Oregon Institute of Neuroscience
  • Cambridge University

Awards & Honors

  • Julian Marsh Faculty Scholar Award, Drexel University College of Medicine (2023)

Dr. Giszter is a professor in the Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy at Drexel University College of Medicine. Prior to coming to Drexel in 1994, he spent several years with Emilio Bizzi at MIT, first as a postdoctoral researcher, and subsequently as a research scientist. He is also joint faculty in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science & Health Systems at Drexel. He has a long history of collaboration with members of the Spinal Cord Injury Research Center and with laboratories in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science & Health Systems and in the College of Engineering.

Research Overview

Research interests: Spinal cord organization, modularity and control of limb biomechanics (neuromechanics).

Visit The Giszter Lab

Lab Members

Research Postdocs:
Taegyo Kim (BME, Drexel University)

Graduate student bioengineers:
Kendall Schmidt
Rachel Roper

Graduate student neuroscientists:
Josie VanLoozen
Andrey Borisyuk
Abreah Little

Technical staff:
Anthony Himes

Research Interests

Spinal cord organization, modularity, motor primitives, control of limb biomechanics, brain machine interface (BMI), comparative motor physiology, corticospinal functions, electromyography, motor control, motor cortex, neuroengineering, neuroprosthetics, neurorobotics, neurobiology, neurorehabilitation, reflex behaviors, rehabilitation, spinal cord injury, systems neurobiology, theoretical and computational neuroscience, trunk/axial controls


Our laboratory focuses on basic mechanisms of motor control in spinal cord, and on corticospinal interactions. The focus particularly on spinal cord modularity in relation to these. In frogs we are examining the neural mechanisms supporting modularity and how modules are assembled to adjust voluntary motor behaviors. In rodent models we are assessing the reorganization and plasticity of lumbar motor controls and of cortical motor organization. We investigate changes in response to spinal transection in neonatal rats and in adult rats, and therapeutic interactions in these rats (including using neuroprosthetics, neurorobotics, neural and optogenetic stimulation and viral therapies). Plastic changes support recovery of stepping in some of the rats as adults. We are extending these findings to experiments with robotic and brain-machine-interface based adaptation and rehabilitation. These interests have steered the lab also to collaborations that explore new techniques for neural activity analysis (Sanger lab, USC) and tools for neural bridging (Tom lab, Drexel), and interneuronal bases of recovery and stimulation effects (Dougherty lab, Drexel). Work is funded by NIH, by NSF and by the Neilsen Foundation.

In the Media

"Third Annual Medical Student Research Day"
College of Medicine Newsroom (March 21, 2014)


Recent Publications

"Enhancing neural activity to drive respiratory plasticity following cervical spinal cord injury."
Hormigo KM, Zholudeva LV, Spruance VM, Marchenko V, Cote MP, Vinit S, Giszter S, Bezdudnaya T, Lane MA.
Exp Neurol. 2017 Jan;287(Pt 2):276-287. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2016.08.018. Epub 2016 Aug 28. Review.

"Trunk Postural Muscle Timing Is Not Compromised In Low Back Pain Patients Clinically Diagnosed With Movement Coordination Impairments."
Mehta R, Cannella M, Henry SM, Smith S, Giszter S, Silfies SP.
Motor Control. 2017 Apr;21(2):133-157. doi: 10.1123/mc.2015-0049. Epub 2016 Aug 19.

"Teaching Adult Rats Spinalized as Neonates to Walk Using Trunk Robotic Rehabilitation: Elements of Success, Failure, and Dependence."
Udoekwere UI, Oza CS, Giszter SF.
J Neurosci. 2016 Aug 10;36(32):8341-55. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2435-14.2016.

"Adaptation to elastic loads and BMI robot controls during rat locomotion examined with point-process GLMs."
Song W, Cajigas I, Brown EN, Giszter SF.
Front Syst Neurosci. 2015 Apr 28;9:62. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2015.00062. eCollection 2015.

"Trunk robot rehabilitation training with active stepping reorganizes and enriches trunk motor cortex representations in spinal transected rats."
Oza CS, Giszter SF.
J Neurosci. 2015 May 6;35(18):7174-89. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4366-14.2015.

"Motor primitives--new data and future questions."
Giszter SF.
Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2015 Aug;33:156-65. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2015.04.004. Epub 2015 Apr 22. Review.

"Spinal primitives and intra-spinal micro-stimulation (ISMS) based prostheses: a neurobiological perspective on the "known unknowns" in ISMS and future prospects."
Giszter SF.
Front Neurosci. 2015 Mar 20;9:72. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2015.00072. eCollection 2015. Review.

"Plasticity and alterations of trunk motor cortex following spinal cord injury and non-stepping robot and treadmill training."
Oza CS, Giszter SF.
Exp Neurol. 2014 Jun;256:57-69. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2014.03.012. Epub 2014 Apr 3.

"A pelvic implant orthosis in rodents, for spinal cord injury rehabilitation, and for brain machine interface research: construction, surgical implantation and validation."
Udoekwere UI, Oza CS, Giszter SF.
J Neurosci Methods. 2014 Jan 30;222:199-206. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2013.10.022. Epub 2013 Nov 19.

"Braided multi-electrode probes: mechanical compliance characteristics and recordings from spinal cords."
Kim T, Branner A, Gulati T, Giszter SF.
J Neural Eng. 2013 Aug;10(4):045001. doi: 10.1088/1741-2560/10/4/045001. Epub 2013 May 31.

"Distinguishing synchronous and time-varying synergies using point process interval statistics: motor primitives in frog and rat."
Hart CB, Giszter SF.
Front Comput Neurosci. 2013 May 9;7:52. doi: 10.3389/fncom.2013.00052. eCollection 2013.

"Motor primitives and synergies in the spinal cord and after injury--the current state of play."
Giszter SF, Hart CB.
Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2013 Mar;1279:114-26. doi: 10.1111/nyas.12065. Review.

"Robot-driven spinal epidural stimulation compared with conventional stimulation in adult spinalized rats."
Hsieh FH, Giszter SF.
Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2011;2011:5807-10. doi: 10.1109/IEMBS.2011.6091437.

"Adaptation to a cortex-controlled robot attached at the pelvis and engaged during locomotion in rats."
Song W, Giszter SF.
J Neurosci. 2011 Feb 23;31(8):3110-28. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2335-10.2011.

"How spinalized rats can walk: biomechanics, cortex, and hindlimb muscle scaling--implications for rehabilitation."
Giszter SF, Hockensmith G, Ramakrishnan A, Udoekwere UI.
Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2010 Jun;1198:279-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05534.x.

"A neural basis for motor primitives in the spinal cord."
Hart CB, Giszter SF.
J Neurosci. 2010 Jan 27;30(4):1322-36. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5894-08.2010.

Selected Publications

"Trunk Control during Standing Reach: A Dynamical System Analysis of Movement Strategies in Patients with Mechanical Low Back Pain"
Silfies SP, Bhattacharya A, Biely S, Smith S, Giszter SF
Gait and Posture, 2008.

"Trunk sensorimotor cortex is essential for hindlimb weight-supported locomotion in adult rats spinalized as P1/P2 neonates"
Giszter SF, Davies MR, Ramakrishnan A, Udoekwere UI, Kargo WJ
J. Neurophysiology 100(2):839-51, 2008.

"Coordination strategies for limb forces during weight-bearing locomotion in normal rats, and in rats spinalized as neonates"
Giszter SF, Davies MR, and Graziani V
Exp. Brain Research 190(1):53-69, 2008.

"Individual premotor drive pulses, not time-varying synergies, are the units of adjustment for limb trajectories constructed in spinal-cord"
Kargo WJ and Giszter SF
J. Neuroscience. 28(10):2409-25, 2008.

"Primitives, Premotor Drives and Pattern Generation: a combined Computational and Neuroethological Perspective"
Giszter SF, Patil V, and Hart CB
Prog. Brain Res. 165:325-349, 2007.

"Motor strategies used by rats spinalized at birth to maintain stance in response to imposed perturbations"
Giszter SF, Davies MR, Graziani VG
J. Neurophysiol. 97(4):2663-75, 2007.

"Towards a definition of recovery of function"
Smeraski C, Tessler A, Giszter SF
J. Neurotrauma. 21(4):405-13, 2004.

"Modular premotor drives and unit bursts as primitives for frog motor behaviors"
Hart CB and Giszter SF
J. Neuroscience 24(22):5269-82, 2004.

"Modeling of dynamic controls in the frog wiping reflex: force-field level controls"
Giszter SF, and Kargo WJ
Neurocomputing 38-40:1239-1247, 2001.

"Dense mapping of frog lumbar spinal cord: organization of force and muscle use"
Giszter SF, Loeb E, Mussa-Ivaldi FA and Bizzi E
Human Movement Science 19 :597-626, 2000.

"Conserved temporal dynamics and vector superposition of primitives in frog wiping reflexes during spontaneous extensor deletions"
Giszter SF and Kargo WJ
Neurocomputing 32-33:775-783, 2000.

"Afferent roles in hindlimb wiping reflex: free limb kinematics and motor patterns"
Kargo, WJ and Giszter SF
J. Neurophysiology 83(3):1480-1501, 2000.

"Rapid corrections of aimed movements by combination of force-field primitives"
Kargo WJ and Giszter SF
J. Neurosci. 20:409-426, 2000.


"Motor Primitives"
Giszter SF
Encyclopedia of Neuroscience. (L.R. Squire, Editor). Oxford: Academic Press, 2009.

"Spinal Cord Injury: Present and Future Therapeutic Devices and Prostheses"
Giszter SF
Neurotherapeutics 5(1):147-162, 2008.

Motor Primitives Handbook of Brain Theory and Neural Networks
Giszter SF
(2nd ed) MIT Press, 2003.

"A neurobiological perspective on design of humanoid robots and their components"
Giszter SF, Moxon KA, Rybak I, and Chapin JK
IEEE Intelligent Systems 15(4): 64-69, 2000.

"Intraspinal microstimulation: techniques, perspectives and prospects for FES"
Giszter SF, Grill W, Lemay M, Mushahwar V, and Prochazka A
pp 101-138 in Neural prostheses for restoration of Sensory and motor function ed. KA Moxon and JK Chapin CRC Press, 2000.

Contact Information

Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy
2900 W. Queen Lane
Philadelphia, PA 19129
Phone: 215.991.8412
Fax: 215.843.9082