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Jordan Borrell

Grad Student, Department of Bioengineering

Project Title: Topographical Mapping of the Outputs to Hindlimb Muscles using Intraspinal Microstimulation

Research Mentor: Randolph Nudo
Paul Arnold

Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a major cause of paralysis caused by motor vehicle accidents, sports related injuries, and war and combat injuries affecting over 6 million people in the world. To date there are few effective treatments to reduce paralysis and return movement. However, the future looks bright. With the purpose of inducing movement in the muscles below the spinal cord lesion, a stimulating electrode will be inserted into the gray matter of the spinal cord, a procedure known as intraspinal microstimulation (ISMS). Aided with innovative research into new technologies, a computer will be interfaced with the central nervous system.  This type of treatment could greatly improve the quality of life for millions of Americans every year.

The objective of my research is to further the development of the brain-computer-spinal cord (BCSC) interface device, being developed between our laboratory and our collaborators at Case Western University, by implementing a rat model to develop a three-dimensional map of the outputs to hindlimb muscle movement within the T13-L2 area of the spinal cord and deriving the relationship between the ISMS-evoked EMG potentials from the muscle and the resulting hindlimb movement. This research is necessary to advance the development of the novel BCSC device and give us the data for stimulation site placement of the final BCSC device.

Jordan Craig

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Jordan Craig 
Grad Student, Department of Bioengineering

Project Title: The effects of aging and neurological pathology on segmental control during walking

Research Mentor: Jessie Huisinga, PhD

Aging populations and persons with neuropathologies often exhibit gait and balance deficits which lead to an increased risk of falling, with roughly $34 billion spent on direct and indirect medical costs resulting from falls.  While much work is being done to develop methods of gait training in various populations, there does not currently exist an objective measure of walking stability.  The goal of this line of research is to identify relevant characteristics of stable gait, and to accurately measure these characteristics using portable wireless sensors to provide an assessment of gait stability which could be used in a laboratory, clinic, or real world environment. The development of such a measure would provide a means of identifying individuals who require treatment for gait and balance deficits and who may be responsive to specific interventions.  A sensitive, objective measure of stability during gait could also track how a person's functional capabilities change over time, allowing clinicians and researchers to monitor progression of neuromuscular diseases or changes to an individual's functional status, in addition to monitoring the efficacy of prescribed interventions.  Additionally, with advances in small wearable technology, real time assessment of walking stability in the real world is entirely feasible and could alert someone of the risk of an impending fall.  Future development of such wearable sensors could reduce the burden on rehabilitation and medical costs from any injuries sustained during falls and allow for individuals at risk for falls to maintain a high quality of life. 

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Jason-Flor Sisante
Grad Student, Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science

Project Title: The effect of exercise on brain blood flow, cognitive performance, and neurovascular biomarkers following acute stroke

Research Mentor: Sandra Billinger
Co-Mentor: John Stanford

Stroke survivors exhibit altered blood flow and cerebral autoregulation, specifically on the ipsilateral side of the stroke.  Poor regulation of brain blood flow may impair delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the parenchema and could affect cognitive performance.  In non-stroke populations, previous research has shown that exercise improves blood flow and cognition, but not much is known about the effects of exercise on brain blood flow and cognition following acute stroke. Using transcranial Doppler ultrasound, cognitive batteries, and a submaximal exercise protocol, this project will investigate the effects of exercise during acute stroke recovery on brain blood flow, cognitive performance, and neurovascular biomarkers. This work may elucidate whether cerebral blood flow regulation and cognition improves as a result of exercise early after stroke.  We will also examine neurovascular markers that may be associated with changes in our outcome measures. This work has important implications for acute stroke rehabilitation and may help improve patient-centered outcomes.

Isabella Fuentes

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Isabella Fuentes
Grad Student, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology

Project Title: Early life stress and voluntary exercise on comorbid mood and urogenital pain disorders in male mice

Research Mentor: Julie A. Christianson
Co-Mentor: Tomas L. Griebling

Chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CP/CPPS) is the most common urological diagnosis for men under age 50, and the third most common for those over 50. Despite this high prevalence rate, the underlying pathophysiology of and optimal treatment strategies for CP/CPPS remain to be elucidated. CP/CPPS is frequently comorbid with other functional pain disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome, migraine, and fibromyalgia, and is also commonly diagnosed alongside mood disorders, including anxiety and depression. Exposure to adverse childhood events has a lasting impact on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and serves as risk factors for mood and functional pain disorders. In the clinical setting, exercise has a beneficial impact on depression and anxiety, as well as decreased associated perceptions of pain; however, to our knowledge, exercise has not been investigated as a potential intervention for urogenital pain disorders. The long-term objective of this project is to understand how exercise can lessen the impact of early life stress on comorbid chronic pelvic pain syndromes and psychological disturbances in male mice that can lead to translation into the human condition. 

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Scott Koppel
Grad Student, Molecular and Integrative Physiology

Project Title: Investigating the molecular and energetic effects of fatty acids and ketone bodies in distinct brain cell populations.

Research Mentor: Russell Swerdlow, MD

The brain requires considerable energy, and both brain and body have evolved strategies to ensure this need is met. A declining ability or outright failure to accomplish this has functional consequences and has been linked to brain aging and disease. Therefore, manipulating brain energy metabolism could offer disease-modifying and neuro-rehabilitation opportunities.

Under normal circumstances, the brain primarily will meet energy demands with glucose. However, in the setting of brain aging or Alzheimer's disease, the brain exhibits a diminished capacity to utilize glucose as an energy source. One potential strategy to correct this deficit would be to supplement alternative fuel sources such as ketone bodies or fatty acids. My research seeks to understand how these metabolites influence distinct populations of neurons, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and microglia. In doing so, a better appreciation of brain bioenergetics and its manipulation will emerge, which will inform efforts intended to harness brain bioenergetic manipulations for neuro-therapeutic and neuro-rehabilitation purposes.  

Max Murphy

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Max Murphy
Grad Student, Department of Bioengineering

Project Title: Describing spike-timing dependent synaptic modification for use with a rehabilitative brain-computer interface.

Research Mentor: Randolph Nudo, PhD

The brain's plasticity allows it to establish new networks that facilitate recovery of function following injury. Plasticity is reliant on the timing and coordination of action potentials. Our lab has previously demonstrated the ability to artificially create pathways in the brain using a closed-loop system for intracortical microstimulation (ICMS) based on the timing of these action potentials. This technique has been effective in restoring reaching behavior in rats following traumatic brain injury to the motor cortex. In order to generalize this type of treatment to other areas of the brain and to other model systems, we need to better understand its governing electrophysiological mechanisms. Does the same closed-loop timing for ICMS facilitate recovery between different areas of the brain? What kind of changes in action potential timing occur as a result of using ICMS and are these changes reliant on the detected action potentials that are used as the closed-loop trigger? Is it more advantageous to use multiple single-units when triggering closed-loop ICMS? These are among the questions that remain in an exciting and largely unexplored field, and ones to which I hope to find answers during the course of my research.

Last modified: Sep 01, 2016