Robert Gaunt, PhD
Assistant Professor

Biography
Robert Gaunt, PhD, joined the department as a Research Assistant Professor after completing post-doctoral training in PM&R's Rehab Neural Engineering Lab in 2010. He was promoted to Assistant Professor in 2014 and also continues to maintain a secondary appointment with the Department of Bioengineering.

Dr. Gaunt’s primary research interests are in the area of sensorimotor control and the development of neuroprosthetic devices. He works on developing methods to restore and improve bladder function using electrical stimulation of the spinal cord and peripheral nerves and on interfaces with the spinal cord and brain to monitor natural sensory activity and generate artificial sensations. These technologies will enable advanced neuroprosthetic devices with sensory capabilities.

Specialized Areas of Interest
Neuroprosthetics, sensorimotor neurophysiology, microstimulation, functional electrical stimulation, spinal cord injury, bladder dysfunction

CONTACT
412-383-1426
rag53@pitt.edu

Professional Organization Membership
Society of Neuroscience
Society for the Neural Control of Movement
Brain-Computer Interface Society

Education & Training
BEng, Mechanical Engineering with Distinction, University of Victoria, BC, Canada, 2000
PhD, Biomedical Engineering, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, 2008
Post-Doctoral, University of Pittsburgh, Douglas Weber, PhD, 2010

Research Activities
My primary research interests are in the area of sensorimotor control, neurorehabilitation and neural prostheses. Specifically, this includes: 1) developing functional sensory feedback technologies for advanced neural prostheses, 2) understanding how somatosensory feedback is incorporated into ongoing motor behavior, 3) understanding how microstimulation in the spinal cord, dorsal root ganglia and cortex recruit neural tissue and 4) developing methods to restore or improve bladder function after spinal cord injury using electrical stimulation of the spinal cord and peripheral nerves.

Ultimately the aim of my research is to understand how we use sensory information, either consciously or unconsciously, to regulate our actions and then leverage this in the design of prosthetic systems that restore these functions to people living with disease or injury such as spinal cord injury or amputation. The following projects are representative of my research.

Spinal Root Sensory Feedback for Intramuscular Myoelectric Prostheses is a DARPA funded program, the aim of which is to develop a prosthetic arm system with sensory and motor capabilities that approach those of a natural limb. Working with a large group of collaborators, we believe that can be achieved by using a multichannel implanted intramuscular EMG recording device to drive biomimetic models of the arm and hand while providing sensory tactile and proprioceptive feedback through electrical stimulation of the spinal roots and dorsal root ganglia.

In the 2012 Rehab Institute Pilot Grant cycle Dr. Gaunt was awarded funding for “Microstimulation of Pelvic and Pudendal Afferents to Restore Bladder Function.” Pilot grants are funded by the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and are intended to support research by junior faculty and primary clinicians.

Selected Publications
Additional publications can be found at Dr. Gaunt's PubMed collection.

Ayers CA, Fisher LE, Gaunt RA, Weber DJ. Microstimulation of the Lumbar DRG Recruits Primary Afferent Neurons in Localized Regions of Lower Limb. J Neurophysiol jn.00961.2015 (2016). doi:10.1152/jn.00961.2015.

Debnath S, Bauman MJ, Fisher LE, Weber DJ, Gaunt RA. Microelectrode array recordings from the ventral roots in chronically implanted cats. Frontiers in Neurology, 5, 104, 2014.

Fisher LE, Ayers CA, Ciollaro M, Ventura V, Weber DJ, Gaunt RA. Chronic recruitment of primary afferent neurons by microstimulation in the feline dorsal root ganglia. J Neural Eng, 11(3), 036007, 2014.

Chen KH, Dammann JF, Boback JL, Tenore FV, Otto KJ, Gaunt RA, Bensmaia SJ. The effect of chronic intracortical microstimulation on the electrode-tissue interface. J Neural Eng, 11(2), 026004, 2014.

Bruns TM, Weber DJ, Gaunt RA. Microstimulation of afferents in the sacral dorsal root ganglia can evoke reflex bladder activity. Neurourology and Urodynamics, doi: 10.1002/nau.22514, 2014.

Bruns TM, Gaunt RA, Weber DJ. Multielectrode array recordings of bladder and perineal primary afferent activity from the sacral dorsal root ganglia. J Neural Eng 8:056010, 2011.

Gaunt RA, Hokanson J, Weber DJ. Microstimulation of primary afferent neurons in the L7 dorsal root ganglia using multielectrode arrays in anesthetized cats: thresholds and recruitment properties. J Neural Eng 6: 55009, 2009. Gaunt RA, Prochazka A. Transcutaneously coupled, high-frequency electrical stimulation of the pudendal nerve blocks external urethral sphincter contractions. Neurorehabil Neural Repair 23: 615-626, 2009.

Gaunt RA, Prochazka A, Mushahwar V, Guevremont L, Ellaway P. Intraspinal microstimulation excites multisegmental sensory afferents at lower stimulus levels than local alpha-motoneuron responses. J Neurophysiol 96: 2995-3005, 2006.

Gaunt RA, Prochazka A. Control of urinary bladder function with devices: successes and failures. Progress in Brain Research 152: 163-194, 2006.