The Movement Recovery Lab Receives $2.56 Million Grant from NIH

September 29, 2021

The Movement Recovery Laboratory at the Columbia University Weinberg Family Cerebral Palsy Center, led by Jason Carmel, MD, PhD, has recently been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health. The lab will receive a total of $2.56 million over the next five years for the multidisciplinary study entitled “Spinal cord associative plasticity”.

On behalf of the collaborative team, it is my pleasure to announce the notice of award for our $2.56M grant from NIH. This funding will enable us to test whether we can induce plasticity in the sensorimotor system by pairing motor cortex and cervical spinal cord stimulation in people.

Dr. Carmel

Experience leads to behavioral change through associative activity of neural circuits. Using this principle, paired stimulation has been used to selectively strengthen circuits. The project proposes to target the spinal cord for associative plasticity, exploiting strong interaction of descending motor connections and large diameter afferents, which mediate the senses of joint position and muscle tension. The team hypothesizes that spinal cord associative plasticity (SCAP) will strengthen spinal excitability, modulate reflexes, and increase pinch force in people with cervical spinal cord injury (SCI). The collaboration between Columbia University Medical Center, Weill Cornell Medicine, and the Bronx Veterans Affairs Hospital aims to test how paired brain and spinal cord stimulation should be delivered in healthy individuals and in people with the two most common causes of SCI, cervical myelopathy and traumatic SCI.

These studies will fill critical gaps on the nature of associative plasticity in the sensorimotor system and test a new strategy to strengthen residual connections after SCI. The multidisciplinary team hopes to close gaps in our understanding of how paired stimulation of sensorimotor circuits should be targeted to the spinal cord and which residual circuits support the plasticity. These findings could optimize how we target electrical stimulation to induce SCAP.

“We hope this project can help advance a larger institutional goal of targeting the spinal cord for recovery of function in nervous system injury and disease,” said Dr. Carmel.