2020-2021 Pilot Project Grant Awardees

Andreana Benitez, Ph.D.

Medical University of South Carolina, Neurology

High-dose Accelerated rTMS to Cognitive Control Neurocircuitry in MCI: A Safety and Feasibility Study

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is the pre-dementia phase of neurodegenerative disease in which both cognitive decline and neuropsychiatric symptoms begin to impact patient functioning. As there are no established treatments for MCI, our goal in this open-label trial is to establish the safety, feasibility, and preliminary efficacy of high-dose accelerated repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation for neurocognitive rehabilitation of MCI. These data will form the critical foundation for future randomized controlled trials to devise the optimum rTMS therapeutic delivery (with variations in dosing, targeting, and patient syndrome indications) with the ultimate goal of dementia prevention. Please visit the Benitez Lab page for more information.

Marian Dale, M.D., MCR

Oregon Health and Science University, Neurology

TMS for Modulation of Motor Control in PSP

The goal of this research is to develop effective therapies for debilitating balance impairment in progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a parkinsonian disorder with early and severe postural instability. The objective of this proposal is to investigate the effect of non-invasive, repetitive, cerebellar transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) on postural instability in PSP, by assessing balance before and after cerebellar TMS treatments and placebo treatments, using objective and sensitive outcomes. If successful, this proof-of-concept study for cerebellar neuromodulation in PSP will lead to better rehabilitation strategies in PSP, and may ultimately change the disease course of parkinsonism by increasing patients’ ability to maintain functional mobility. Please visit Dr. Dale's profile page for more information.

James Sulzer, Ph.D.

University of Texas at Austin, Mechanical Engineering

Simulating Operant Conditioning Performance

Operant H-reflex conditioning has great potential for treatment of reflex disorders without the adverse effects of drugs or surgery. However, we do not understand how operant H-reflex conditioning is processed by patients, risking enormous amounts of time and resources. Here we introduce a principled method of quantifying and eventually predicting the ability to perform operant H-reflex conditioning, resulting in a far more efficient way to improve training. Please visit Dr. Sulzer's profile page for more information.

Lee Fisher, Ph.D.

University of Pittsburgh, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Preventing Episodes of Phantom Limb Pain in Lower Limb Amputees

Phantom limb pain is a debilitating condition that significantly reduces the quality of life of amputees. This work aims to study the mechanisms of phantom limb pain and pinpoint a biomarker that can be used by a device to non-invasively and non-pharmacologically prevent pain. In a time where opioid addiction is ever present, alternative, safe, and effective pain treatments are warranted. Please visit Dr. Fisher's profile page for more information.

Ryan Zarzycki, PT, DPT, Ph.D.

Arcadia University, Physical Therapy

Non-invasive Brain Stimulation to Improve Quadriceps Muscle Function after Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction

Outcomes following Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction (ACLR) are not optimal with high reinjury rates (one in four patients) and chronic movement asymmetries associated with post-traumatic knee OA development (up to 74%). Neurostimulation has the potential to improve quadriceps dysfunction via neural mechanisms, mitigate quadriceps dysfunction, and improve outcomes after ACLR. Please visit Dr. Zarzycki's profile page for more information.