Carmel Lab 2015
Current Lab Members
Thelma Bethea, B.S.
Laboratory Manager/Research Technician
B.S., Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY
My background and experience in neuroscience stems from work in a psychiatric lab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where we observed the effects of stress, depression, and anxiety on the brain’s noradrenergic system. My interests have since shifted to motor function loss as a result of demyelinating diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, and the role of the Corticospinal tract in motor injury and repair. Since joining the motor recovery lab, my projects include the use of behavioral and anatomical techniques to observe activity-based therapeutic effects on axonal plasticity and functional recovery after brain and/or spinal cord insult.
Samuel Butensky, B.S.E.
B.S.E., Duke University
My current research interest is in the evaluation of forelimb function as a measure of corticospinal function. Specifically, we are developing a behavior testing device that isolates and measures supination in rats. This device needs to show sensitivity to functional changes in rats after induced corticospinal injury or inactivation. My background is in biomedical engineering, and I am applying my training to thinking creatively about improvements in software, hardware, and training associated with this supination task. I work with Anil Sindhurakar, Ph.D. and Thelma Bethea, B.S. on training rats for this device.
Violeta Contreras Ramirez, B.S., M.S.
Lindsey Echevarria, B.A.
Disha Gupta, Ph.D.
Instructor, Early Brain Injury Recovery/Motor Recovery
Society for Neuroscience 2014 Poster
"Comparing Anatomy and Physiology of the Corticospinal Tract Across Subjects: Microstimulation Motor Mapping and Retrograde Tracing of Motor Cortex Neurons Co-registered in 3-Dimensional Space"
Postdoctoral Fellow, Donders Center for Brain Cognition and Behavior, Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands in Translational Neuroscience lab with Prof. Gilles Van Luijtelaar
Postdoctoral Fellow, Albany Medical College, NY, Dept. of Neurology in Brain Computer Interfacing group of Anthony Ritaccio, M.D.
Visiting Scientist, Wadsworth Center, New York State Dept. of Health, NY in Brain Computer Interfacing Laboratory of Gerwin Schalk, Ph.D.
B.E., Electrical Engineering, Punjab Engineering College, Punjab University, India
M.S., Information Technology and Security, Royal Inst. of Technology KTH, Stockholm, Sweden
Ph.D., Neuroscience Biomedical Engineering, University of Southampton, United Kingdom in Biomedical Signal Processing group of Christopher James, Ph.D. and Southampton General Hospital, Dept. of Neurology, with William Gray, M.D., Ph.D.
My research focus is on understanding the neural and neuromuscular effects of applying weak electric currents to the brain in order to harness it optimally for rehabilitation from brain injury. Techniques such as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) allow the application of weak currents to the scalp. The resulting effects on the brain and muscle can then be assayed by a combination of passive electrical signal measurements from the scalp (referred to as electroencephalography) and/or muscle (electromyography) while the person engages in a motor task. These signals help us to understand the spatial and temporal dynamics of the interactions within and between the two hemispheres of the brain and those between the brain and the muscles. Furthermore, I will investigate the causal relationships in these brain-muscle networks. I use various advanced digital signal processing methods to investigate the above questions. This exploration will help us to understand when, where and how the functional networks in the brain and muscle engage during a motor task in normal brain as compared a to brain with injury and how they can be perturbed towards rapid long-lasting motor-function improvement.
Asht Mishra, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Associate, Yale University, CT
with Hal Blumenfeld, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Research Scientist, Yale University, CT
with Hal Blumenfeld, M.D., Ph.D.
B.Sc., Gorakhpur University, Gorakhpur, U.P., India
M.Sc., University of Lucknow, Lucknow, U.P., India
Ph.D., Neuroimaging and Biochemistry, SG Postgraduate Inst. of Med. Sciences, Lucknow, India
with Rakesh Gupta, M.D.
I am interested in understanding the physiology and anatomy of motor functions in the corticospinal system. We use electrical stimulation on intact as well as injured brain and spinal cord to study physiology of plasticity in the corticospinal system. I have gained experience in studying neurophysiology and brain anatomy changes in epilepsy and brain injury models using electrophysiology, brain stimulation, and multi-modal functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging. As a motor recovery laboratory team, our goal is to improve understanding of motor functions in patients with brain and spinal cord injury.
Ajay Pal, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Postdoctoral Researcher, Clinatec, CEA-Leti, Grenoble, France
‘Neurotechnology and Network Dynamics laboratory’ supervised by Blaise Yvert, Ph.D
B.Sc., Life Sciences, DDU Gorakhpur University, Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India
M.Sc., Biomedical Sciences, ACBR, University of Delhi, Delhi, India
Ph.D., Neurophysiology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, India.
I am a system neurophysiologist interested in descending motor systems responses after traumatic central nervous system injury. During my doctoral training, I developed a rat model of complete spinal cord injury (SCI), designed a novel way of implanting magnetic nanoparticles at injury site and studied the effect of electromagnetic field exposure on locomotor recovery and regeneration post SCI. In my previous position, I worked on neonatal rat brainstem-spinal cord preparation to characterize descending rhythmic locomotor activity in the lumbar spinal cord. Our overall goal was to interface neuronal networks in the spinal cord with artificial neural networks through neural probes in order to develop neural prostheses for SCI. My current research focuses on the electrical activity of nerve cells to form motor command and how muscles can be activated to produce movements by means of electrical signal. In Carmel’s laboratory, I am working towards deepening our understanding of the corticospinal circuits involved in hand movements. Our aim is to recover functional motor movements through the strengthening of spared circuits after injury by means of paired brain and spinal cord electrical stimulation. Our long-term goal is to develop a robust rehabilitation strategy for motor system paralysis.
Honggeun Park, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Seoul National University
B.A., Kon-kuk University, Seoul, South Korea (2002)
M.S., Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea (2006)
Ph.D., Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea (2012)
I am a systems neuroscientist and molecular biologist interested in neural injury and repair. I first became interested in this field when I studied cell survival mechanisms after spinal cord injury during my master’s degree. In Dr. Tae Hwan Oh’s laboratory, I learned the techniques of tract tracing, motor behavior testing, and molecular techniques. In addition, I learned about the challenges of brain and spinal cord injury and repair. For my Ph.D. studies, I transferred to Dr. Yong Sik Kim’s laboratory in neuropsychiatry. There I learned about changes in signal transduction underlying psychiatric disorders and the effect of medications. I led the implementation of several experimental techniques, such as chromatin immunoprecipitation and an in vivo translational assay. I trained in viral production and manipulation for gene delivery to the brain. I am excited to apply viral manipulation to the understanding of circuits that mediate recovery after injury.
Anil Sindhurakar, Ph.D.
B.A., Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA (2006)
Ph.D., Systems Biology and Disease, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA (2012)
with Nina S. Bradley, P.T., Ph.D.
I am interested in repair of the motor systems after developmental injury to the brain and spinal cord. My interest in developmental neuroscience led me to do my doctoral training with Dr. Nina Bradley at University of Southern California. In Dr. Bradley's Motor Control Development Laboratory, I studied the development of neural circuits for walking in a chick model. I studied development of leg muscle movement patterns that are precursor to independent bipedal walking as well as postural balance.
For my postdoc, I joined Dr. Jason Carmel's Motor Recovery Laboratory. Here, I have studied how the corticospinal system adapts to injury using a rat model. I have been working on three interrelated projects. 1) Establishing rodent model for the most common cause of corticospinal tract injury—subcortical stroke. The goal of the project is to selectively lesion the part of the corticospinal tract that controls the forelimb. This allows us to test the hypothesis that spared motor circuits in the vicinity of forelimb motor circuits as hindlimb circuits or by-pass circuits in the midbrain such as rubrospinal tract will help to restore the impaired forelimb function. Once we understand which spared circuits are involved in endogenous recovery, I plan to specifically augment those circuits using electrical brain stimulation which assume the function lost with injury. 2) Augment spared circuits after corticospinal injury. In this project, we interested in testing the hypothesis that pharmacological enhancement of CNS excitability will allow weak descending motor control to become stronger and promote recovery of motor function. 3) Development of a sensitive and specific test of corticospinal function in the rat. While humans rely heavily on the corticospinal system, rats do not. Developing sensitive tests of corticospinal function in the rat allows our laboratory findings to be applied to humans. To this end, we have developed a test of supination—turning the hand from palm down to palm up in the rat. This movement is selectively lost in both people and rats with corticospinal injury.
Lessons learned through these projects will help me apply similar techniques to enhance motor recovery in neonatal rodent model of CST injury as well. My ultimate goal is to translate these findings to help better rehabilitate children with motor dysfunction.
- Robert Rennekar's group at UT Dallas (Development of the Knob Task for Supination Project)
- Acorda Therapeutics for testing the efficacy of pharmacological methods to enhance corticospinal function
Recent Scientific Presentations:
Tongchun Wen, M.D., Ph.D.
2002 to 2007, Assistant Professor, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA
2007-2011, Director of Lab, MidAtlantic Neonatology Associates, Morristown, NJ
B.A., Binzhou Medical College, China
M.D., Binzhou Medical College, China
M.S., Xian Medical University, China
Ph.D., Ehime University School of Medicine, Japan
In my 25 years as a scientist, I have focused on animal models of stroke and have spent the last ten years devoted to neonatal brain injury. We have created a neonatal rat model of arterial ischemic stroke and have used the model to investigate aspects of neuroprotection and neurological recovery. Since joining Dr. Carmel’s lab, I have focused on experiments on the plasticity of corticospinal connections after neonatal pyramidotomy.
Kiki Yang, Ph.D.
Former Lab Members
Brendan Flynn, B.S.
Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Med Student
B.S., State University of New York at Cortland, NY
Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Med Program, Fordham University, NY
My current research interest is in the evaluation of forelimb function as a measure of corticospinal function. We measure reaching, supination, and other movements that are impaired with corticospinal injury. By using behavior testing devices, the impact of injury and degree of subsequent recovery can be quantified. I work with Anil Sindhurakar, Ph.D., in training and testing rats that model cerebral palsy.
Corey Pagnotta, B.A.
B.A., Pennsylvania State University, PA
Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Med Program, Fordham University, NY
My research centers on developmental neural plasticity and the circuits involved in recovery of motor function after injury to the central nervous system. Our goal is to gain a deeper understanding of how the developing brain responds to corticospinal injury. Using a neonatal rat model, we employ anatomical, physiological, inactivation and behavioral techniques to study neuroplasticity and investigate the circuits involved in recovery of motor function. I am most excited by the translational potential of our research in helping people with brain and spinal cord injury to regain movement.