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New Research Documents the Effectiveness of Epidural Stimulation as a Therapy Option for Paralysis

Meet the Scientists

Claudia Angeli, Ph.D.

Claudia Angeli, Ph.D.
Senior Researcher, Human Locomotion Research Center at Frazier Rehab Institute, Assistant Professor, University of Louisville's Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center

Dr. Claudia Angeli was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After her high school graduation she moved to the United States to further her educational opportunities. She received her B.S. in Health and Human Performance at East Carolina University. From there, she went to Michigan State University where she obtained her Masters and Ph.D. in Kinesiology with a concentration in Mechanical Engineering. While at Michigan State she worked as a research assistant at the Biomechanics Evaluation Laboratory. She moved to Louisville taking a position at Frazier Rehab Institute as the coordinator of the Gait and Biomechanics Laboratory. She also has faculty appointments in the departments of Neurological Surgery, Mechanical Engineering and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Louisville and the department of Physical Therapy at Bellarmine University.

Her research interest is in understanding mechanisms of control of human locomotion following neurologic injury. She is working on studies with a primary focus of activity-based retraining of the nervous system following spinal cord injury. She works closely with Dr. Susan Harkema and her current work is focused on the use of epidural stimulation in combination with locomotor training to increase the excitability of the spinal cord and augment return of function.

During her time away from the lab she enjoys hiking and biking. She likes traveling and learning about other cultures.

Susan J. Harkema, Ph.D.

Susan J. Harkema, Ph.D.
Susan J. Harkema, Ph.D. professor, rehabilitation research director of the University of Louisville's Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center, Owsley Brown Frazier Chair in Clinical Rehabilitation Research, and the director of research at Frazier Rehab Institute. She is also the director of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation's NeuroRecovery Network.

Her research is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Kentucky Spinal Cord and Head Injury Research Trust, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. Her research also receives support from Frazier Rehab Institute.

Harkema's research is focused on understanding neural mechanisms responsible for human locomotion and the level of plasticity -- or the ability to change and recover -- after neurologic injury. She and her colleagues have developed an intervention called locomotor training that re-teaches walking by providing sensory cues the neural circuitry of the spinal cord recognizes and promotes better muscle patterns for walking. The results of these studies contribute to the knowledge about the fundamental mechanisms that control human locomotion; this may provide strategies physical therapists can use for walking rehabilitation after neurologic injury occurs.

Harkema has served as a reviewer for ten scientific journals and has published more than 50 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters. She is regularly invited to speak at national and international conferences.

A graduate of Michigan State University, Harkema earned her B.S. and Ph.D. in physiology and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in neurology at the University of California, Los Angeles. After joining the faculty at UCLA in 1995 as an assistant researcher, Harkema became an assistant professor in the department of neurology and the Brain Research Institute. She joined the University of Louisville's Department of Neurological Surgery and Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center as well as the Frazier Rehab Institute in 2005.

Reggie Edgerton, Ph.D.

V. Reggie Edgerton, Ph.D.
Dr. V. Reggie Edgerton is a Distinguished Professor of Integrative Biology and Physiology and of Neurobiology, and of Neurosurgery at UCLA, and a member of UCLA's Brain Research Institute. He has been a professor at UCLA since 1968.

Dr. Edgerton's laboratory focuses on two main research questions: How do the neural networks in the lumbar spinal cord of mammals, including humans, regain control of standing, stepping and voluntary control of fine movements after paralysis, and how can these motor functions be modified by chronically imposing activity-dependent interventions after spinal cord injury? These studies have shown that the mammalian spinal cord, without any input from the brain, can learn specific complex motor tasks such as standing and stepping. He has been conducting fundamental research in this area for 38 years.

"Sometimes," he said, "I ask, 'why did it take so long?'"

Dr. Edgerton received his Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from Michigan State University, Masters from University of Iowa and Bachelors of Science from East Carolina University.

Watch Professor Edgerton discuss his research in this 9-minute video interview from May, 2011.

Yury Gerasimenko, Ph.D.

Yury Gerasimenko, Ph.D.
Yury Gerasimenko is a professor and director of the Laboratory of Movement Physiology at St. Petersburg's Pavlov Institute and a researcher in UCLA's Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology.

Dr. Gerasimenko was born in Frunze, Kyrgyzstan (former Soviet Union). He received his B.S. in Institute of Physical Education and Sport, Frunze. Afterwards, he moved to St. Petersburg, Russia. In the Pavlov Institute of Physiology, Russian Academy of Sciences, he obtained his Ph.D. and later his doctor's degree in Physiology of Human and Animals. While at the Pavlov Institute of Physiology, he worked as a researcher and later as a director at the Movement Physiology Laboratory. He then moved to Los Angeles, taking a position at UCLA as a researcher with the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology.

His research has led to the development of effective rehabilitative strategies for the recovery of the injured spinal cord using a combination of therapies, including epidural and transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation, pharmacological intervention and locomotor training. He works closely with his UCLA colleague, Dr. Reggie Edgerton.

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Continue Christopher Reeve's LegacyPhoto by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders