2019-2020 Pilot Project Grant Awardees

Evangelia G. Chrysikou, PhD

Drexel University, Psychology

Characterizing the Effects of tDCS Parameter Manipulation on Behavior and Physiology in the Language System

Aphasia is the most common cognitive deficit associated with stroke, affecting approximately 80,000 individuals in the United States annually, many of whom suffer from persistent, debilitating loss of communication abilities. While we and others have identified tDCS as a promising adjunct to traditional language therapies, the advancement of tDCS toward clinical use is hampered by the absence of clear understanding, even in healthy brains, of the relationships between key stimulation parameters and the effects of tDCS on brain activity and behavior. By clarifying these relationships, this study will enhance the fidelity of future tDCS studies for the treatment of aphasia as well as for many other acquired neurological deficits.  Please visit the Chrysikou Lab Page for more information.

Andrea Behrman, PhD

University of Louisville, Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center

Transcutaneous spinal stimulation: Augmenting training for attaining intrinsic trunk control in children with spinal cord injury
Our long term aim is to develop therapies to improve the ability of children with spinal cord injury to sit upright on their own. Children with paralyzed trunk muscles cannot sit upright and are at significant risk for developing scoliosis (a curved spine), pneumonia, pressure sores, and for undergoing surgery. Achieving the ability to sit upright may thus reduce the risk for scoliosis and surgery, improve a child’s health, reduce healthcare costs and enhance their quality of life.  Please visit The Kosair Charities Center for Pediatric NeuroRecovery for more information.

Nina Suresh, PhD

Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, Research Scientist

Can H-reflex down conditioning reduce spasticity in stroke survivors?
The neural mechanisms that contribute to hyperreflexia in individuals with spasticity following a hemispheric stroke remain largely unknown, and thereby difficult to target with current clinical interventions. Presently the pharmaceutical interventions available to stroke survivors for spasticity reduction also have considerable side effects such as drowsiness and a potential degradation of muscle structure and function. Our hypothesis is that targeted neuromodulation, if effective in reducing spasticity and effectively maintained due to changes at the MN level, would provide an alternative intervention for spasticity reduction in a cohort of stroke survivors with residual corticospinal connections to the targeted muscle, without detrimental side effects.  Please visit Dr. Suresh's page at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab,

Roy Hamilton, MD, M.S.

University of Pennsylvania, Neurology

Personalizing neuromodulation of cognitive control through precision intrinsic system mapping
This proposal takes initial steps toward developing personalized neuromodulation with respect to target selection. PrISM will account for individual variability in structural and functional anatomy, enabling clinicians and researchers to make reliable predictions about the cognitive or behavioral impact of delivering TMS. The system level dissociation between inhibitory and attentional control networks offers an ideal test-case for establishing the utility of our approach. Moreover, cognitive control dysfunction is shared across a number of psychiatric and neurological disorders including depression, schizophrenia, dementias, and stroke, and therefore represents a highly attractive therapeutic target for individualized stimulation.

Pranav J. Parikh, MBBS, PhD

University of Houston, Health and Human Performance

Neuromodulation to Improve Dynamic Balance in Stroke
Balance control is an important factor contributing to falls in stroke survivors. The aims of this proposal are to study the neural network underlying balance control in individuals with stroke using high resolution electroencephalography and determine whether this network can be modulated using theta burst transcranial magnetic stimulation. Our findings could lead to effective neuromodulation strategies and innovative closed-loop BMI-robotics to improve balance control in stroke patients.  Please visit the Parikh Lab page for more information.

Bashar Badran, PhD

Medical University of South Carolina, Psychiatry

taVNS-Paired TMS to Enhance Motor Cortex Excitability
This research proposal is a critical important step in further developing transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation (taVNS) as an assistive tool in the rehabilitation of motor function post-stroke. This work will help determine whether combining two forms of neuromodulation (rTMS and taVNS) will increase TMS-induced cortical excitability in the motor cortex when compared to single modality approaches. The information gathered from this study will set the stage for the next phase of clinical work with this exciting technology and contribute to a planned R21 submission by the PI further exploring the timing intricacies underlying the mechanism of taVNS-paired rehabilitation