UofL/Frazier Rehab neuroscientist leads studies showing patients benefit from national spinal cord rehab network, locomotor training


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. –Research studies from teams headed by a University of Louisville/Frazier Rehab Institute neuroscientist published online this week demonstrate for the first time that innovative rehabilitative treatments for individuals with spinal cord injuries (SCI) can lead to significant functional improvements in patients and a higher quality of life.

    Eleven studies published in the September issue of the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation conclude that establishing a network of rehab centers for SCI that standardizes treatment can lead to significant functional improvements for chronically injured patients. An additional study published in the September issue of Journal of Neurological Physical Therapy found that expenses associated with equipment, home renovations and transportation decreased by up to 25 percent for both pediatric and senior patients with motor incomplete SCI due to the function gained following intensive locomotor training intervention.

    The principal author is Susan J. Harkema, Ph.D., the Owsley Brown Frazier Chair in Clinical Rehabilitation Research at the UofL School of Medicine’s Department of Neurological Surgery and director of the Spinal Cord Medicine Program at Frazier Rehab Institute, part of KentuckyOne Health.

    These treatments are provided through the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network (NRN), a national network of activity-based rehabilitation centers for spinal cord injury. The findings suggest that a shift in both protocol and policy is needed to standardize rehabilitation across multiple centers. The studies were funded by the Reeve Foundation, the nation’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to curing spinal cord injury and improving quality of life for people living with paralysis.

    The NRN is a national network of rehabilitative centers established by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to translate scientific advances into activity-based rehabilitation treatment for individuals with neurological disorders, and is funded by a cooperative agreement between the Foundation and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    Using data from a total of 296 SCI patients at seven centers across the country, researchers found that the NRN succeeds because of overarching conditions, including:

    Jill Scoggins is Director of Communications at UofL's Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. She has been at UofL since 2010.