The Movement Recovery Lab Receives $1.25 million CDMRP Grant

Study to Advance Understanding of Epidural Stimulation for Arm and Hand Function

March 21, 2024

The Movement Recovery Laboratory at the Weinberg Family Cerebral Palsy Center has been awarded a $1.25 million grant from the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP). Spread over three years, the grant will be used to determine how to stimulate the spinal cord to restore arm and hand function after spinal cord injury. For many people with neurological injury and condition, recovery of hand function is a top priority. 

Led by Jason B. Carmel, MD, PhD, the Movement Recovery Laboratory is investigating the application of epidural spinal cord stimulation for recovery of arm and hand function. In a previous study, the lab has constructed a map of muscle responses to changing the location of stimulation on the cervical spinal cord. The focus of this new grant is to understand how muscle response maps are modified by and interact with the location of spinal cord injury. The lab aims to determine optimal targeting of epidural stimulation to selectively activate arm and hand muscles in laboratory models and in humans undergoing clinically indicated spine surgery. These mapping studies will inform subsequent stimulation trials to restore forelimb function in rats with impaired dexterity. 

James McIntosh, PhD and Jason B. Carmel, MD, PhD in the lab

James McIntosh, PhD and Jason B. Carmel, MD, PhD in the Movement Recovery Lab

“This grant would allow us to close the basic science to human translation gap,”shared James R. McIntosh, PhD, co-investigator of this study and Associate Research Scientist of the Movement Recovery Laboratory. “It will enable us to efficiently investigate various factors that affect muscle responses in animal models, apply the most successful techniques in human participants, and then use these findings to make further improvements in animal injury models. This process will help us refine our methods for better outcomes and optimize spinal cord stimulation as therapy.” 

When successfully completed, this work will have a significant impact on the field of movement recovery. Improved understanding of how epidural electrical stimulation should be applied to the cervical spinal cord paves the way for more targeted clinical trials, enabling the application of this technique to restore arm and hand function in people.  

“Ultimately,” says Jason Carmel, MD, PhD, Weinberg Family Associate Professor of Neurology and principal investigator of the grant, “the research aims to advance personalized medicine by tailoring spinal cord stimulation based on an individual’s injury and functional priorities. We are grateful for this opportunity to help advance this research to improve people’s dexterity and independence.” 

More on the Movement Recovery Lab's related paper, Intraoperative Electrical Stimulation of the Human Dorsal Spinal Cord Reveals a Map of Arm and Hand Muscle Responses

Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP)

The CDMRP under the US Department of Defense funds innovative and impactful research which closes critical gaps to meet the expressed needs of the American public, the military, and Congress.