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Burke Medical Research Institute Scientist Awarded Grant by the March of Dimes Foundation for Cerebral Palsy Prevention Research

Released March 19, 2012


 “Burke Medical Research Institute Scientist Awarded Grant by the March of Dimes Foundation for Cerebral Palsy Prevention Research”

White Plains, NY—March 19, 2012—Jason B. Carmel, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Motor Recovery Laboratory at the Burke Medical Research Institute—the research arm of the Burke Rehabilitation Center—has been awarded the Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Grant by the March of Dimes Foundation. Named in honor of the first president of the March of Dimes, this two-year, $150,000 grant supports promising young scientists commencing independent careers in basic research related to birth defects and other causes of infant mortality and disability.

“I am humbled to receive the Basil O'Connor Award both because of the accomplishments of the man for whom the award is named and also because of the incredible group of scientists who have received the award,” Carmel said, adding that “this grant will significantly speed our application of a promising new therapy—electrical stimulation—to promote recovery of movement after a type of brain injury that is particularly prevalent in babies born prematurely.”

The award will fund Carmel’s research on brain stimulation to promote recovery of movement, and specifically to prevent cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy, or CP, is a disorder of movement due to brain injury that occurs early in life. CP develops in 1.2 to 2.5 of every 1,000 infants and is a common consequence of premature birth.

According to Carmel, “Most research into early brain injury focuses on primary prevention—protecting the brain at the time of insult. Our strategy focuses on secondary prevention, trying to prevent the signs of cerebral palsy before they appear by strengthening residual brain connections with electrical stimulation.”

His motor recovery lab focuses on the corticospinal system, which directly connects the parts of the brain that initiate movement to the spinal cord that helps execute movement.  Carmel uses activity-based therapies, including electrical stimulation and motor training, to attempt to repair brain-spinal cord connections.

The approach capitalizes on the fact that most brain and spinal injuries preserve some corticospinal connections, which respond well to activity and can be strengthened with training or electrical stimulation.

In addition, Carmel is also opening a clinic for children with early brain injuries in partnership with the Weill-Cornell Medical College—a Burke affiliate—where Carmel is an assistant professor of neurology and neuroscience, specializing in pediatric neurology. The Burke-Cornell Early Brain Injury Recovery Clinic aims to develop therapies that restore movement, sensation and cognition for children who sustain injury to the developing nervous system due to a premature birth, disease or other trauma. The clinic was created to extend the promise of Carmel’s approach in the laboratory to children affect by or at risk for CP.

Funded by grants and private donations, Burke’s Medical Research Institute is involved in cutting-edge basic, translational and clinical research, providing new knowledge that can become the basis for future rehabilitation therapies in the areas of stroke, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury. The Institute has recently added new research laboratories in the areas of pain, vision restoration and motor recovery. The institute strives to assist patients to recover more fully, not just decrease disability, which has been the focus of mainstream rehabilitation research historically.

It is part of the Burke Rehabilitation Center, which also encompasses the Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, a private, not-for-profit, acute rehabilitation hospital. Founded in 1915, it is the only hospital in Westchester County dedicated solely to rehabilitation medicine. Burke offers both inpatient and outpatient programs for those who have experienced a disabling illness, traumatic injury or joint replacement surgery. Burke is both an acute rehabilitation hospital and medical research center. Burke’s world renowned doctors and therapists provide state-of-the-art treatment, while its research scientists at the Burke Medical Research Institute explore the frontiers of neurological and rehabilitation medicine. All share the Burke mission to ensure that every patient makes the fullest possible recovery from illness or injury regardless of their ability to pay.


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