Ongoing Projects

The targeted neuroplasticity lab employs elements of neuroscience and biomedical engineering to develop treatments for human disease.  The primary research focus is enhancing neuroplasticity, or the ability of the brain to change, in order to treat neurological disease.  The majority of current studies evaluate the ability of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), a putative targeted plasticity therapy, to improve recovery in models of motor dysfunction.  The multidisciplinary nature of most projects provides many opportunities for collaboration.

Improving Stroke Recovery in Aged Subjects

The advanced age is the primary risk factor for stroke and is associated with worse functional outcomes.  Developing therapies that improve function and independence in the elderly following a stroke is of key clinical importance.  We are testing the ability of VNS paired with motor training to improve recovery of forelimb function, and we evaluating the neural mechanisms that may underlie this recovery. 

Restoring Skilled Hand Function after Ischemic Stroke

One significant problem for patients who suffer from neurogenic motor disorders is the ability to pronate and supinate the forelimb.  We have developed an automated behavioral task that isolates supination motion.  We are now testing whether VNS can enhance recovery of supination function after stroke.

Defining Optimal Therapeutic Parameters of VNS

VNS likely facilitates neuroplasticity and recovery by driving release of neuromodulators. In order to optimize the efficacy of the therapy, we are defining the stimulation parameters which elicit maximal activation of relevant neuromodulatory centers and downstream targets.

Reducing Motor Dysfunction in Parkinson’s Disease

Increasing research indicates that dysfunction in the cortical circuitry contributes to the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.  We are testing whether VNS delivered during motor training can improve forelimb function and restore motor cortex organization disrupted by Parkinson’s disease.

Enhancing Recovery of Motor Function after Peripheral Nerve Injury

Peripheral nerve injury resulting from trauma and endocrine or autoimmune disease is a major cause of motor and sensory impairments in patients.  We are testing the ability of VNS to restore motor function after peripheral nerve injury and evaluating the neural mechanisms that may be involved.