Spinal Cord Injury Research

Michael L. Boninger, MD, is the director and principal investigator of the University of Pittsburgh Model Center on Spinal Cord Injury, NIDILRR Center of Excellence.
Projects include:
  • Biochemical evaluation of the transfer assessment instrument (with Alicia Koontz, PhD)
  • Revolutionizing prosthetics program 
  • University of Pittsburgh Model Center of Spinal Cord Injury
Jennifer Collinger, PhD, is currently researching neurorehabilitation and brain-computer interface technology for individuals with motor impairments due to spinal cord injury and disease. She, with Mike Boninger, was a recipient of the 2012 Breakthrough Award for her work in brain-machine interface research.
Projects include:
  • Investigation of cortical changes following
  • Revolutionizing prosthetics program (with Mike Boninger, Robert Gaunt)
Brad Dicianno, MD, focuses on developing and studying interventions, such as wheelchairs, adaptive sports, telemedicine, virtual reality, and preventative care programs, targeted to improving health and wellness in individuals with complex disabilities. Dr. Dicianno conducts research at the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) including:
  • Rehabilitation engineering research center on telerehabilitation
  • Pulmonary function in adolescents and adults with spina bifida
  • iMHere: mHealth for enhanced wellness
  • Mobilty and functional outcomes from the national spina bifida patient registry
Robert Gaunt, PhD, focuses his research in the areas of sensorimotor control and the development of neuroprosthetic devices. He has worked on developing methods to restore and improve bladder function using electrical stimulation of the spinal cord and peripheral nerves and on interfaces with the dorsal root ganglia to monitor natural sensory activity and generate artificial sensations. Projects include:
  • Novel sensory neural prosthesis using active, flexible electronics
  • Microstimulation of pelvic and pedendal afferents to restore bladder function
  • Revolutionizing prosthetics program 
Lee Fisher, PhD, focuses on restoration of sensory and motor function after neural damage due to spinal cord injury and amputation. He has experience in the use of electrical stimulation of peripheral nerves to generate muscle contractions to restore standing after spinal cord injury, and his current research focuses on stimulation of the dorsal root ganglion to generate meaningful sensory percepts in upper- and lower-limb amputees.
Projects include:
  • Pre-clinical and clinical testing of somatosensory neuroprostheses after amputation
  • Development of novel stimulation paradigms to delay fatigue and prolong standing after spinal cord injury
Lynn A. Worobey, PhD, DPT, ATP, is the co-director of the University of Pittsburgh Model Center on Spinal Cord Injury, NIDILRR Center of Excellence.
Projects include:
  • Translating Transfer Training and Wheelchair Maintenance into Practice
  • University of Pittsburgh Model Center of Spinal Cord Injury

Our reputation for leading the field in novel innovations has led to the designation of several Model System Centers funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR).

The University of Pittsburgh is home to the Model Center on Spinal Cord Injury.

Led by Principal Investigator, Dr. Michael Boninger, the UPMC-SCI is one of 14 funded research and clinical centers in the Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems (SCIMS) network. UPMC-SCI provides a continuum of care beginning with emergency response, continues with comprehensive acute medical treatment and rehabilitation through utilization of assistive technology services and vocational rehabilitation. UPMC research, which focuses on assistive technology and the prevention of upper limb pain related to over use, aims to improve the participation and quality of life of individuals with spinal cord injury.