National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR)

Through basic, translational, and clinical research, NCMRR aims to foster development of scientific knowledge needed to enhance the health, productivity, independence, and quality of life of people with physical disabilities.

NCMRR supports research on the following topics: pathophysiology and management of chronically injured nervous and musculoskeletal systems (including stroke, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and orthopedic conditions); repair and recovery of motor and cognitive function; functional plasticity, adaptation, and windows of opportunity for rehabilitative interventions; rehabilitative strategies involving pharmaceutical, stimulation, neuroengineering approaches, exercise, motor training, and behavioral modifications; pediatric rehabilitation; secondary conditions associated with chronic disabilities; improved diagnosis, assessment, and outcome measures; and development of orthotics, prosthetics, and other assistive technologies and devices.

The center's National Advisory Board on Medical Rehabilitation Research meets twice a year to discuss NCMRR's portfolio and research directions. Parts of the meetings are open to the public and minutes and other related information are available.

NCMRR also led the development of the NIH Research Plan on Rehabilitation (PDF 1.5 MB) for the conduct, support, and coordination of medical rehabilitation research across NIH.

To receive email updates from NCMRR, including funding opportunities, notices, meetings, and job opportunities, subscribe to the NCMRR Rehabilitation Research newsletter. 

We are interested in applications that align with the following research priorities. For more information about NICHD’s research themes, cross-cutting topics, and aspirational goals, visit the plan’s Scientific Research Themes and Objectives.

Person-Centered Measures, Real-World Outcomes

Strategic Plan Theme 5: Advancing Safe and Effective Therapeutics and Devices for Pregnant and Lactating Women, Children, and People with Disabilities

Gap: Many rehabilitation outcome measures are targeted to clinic- or hospital-based assessments and do not reflect the person’s perception of their function across the rehabilitation process.

Priority: Research to develop scalable strategies and technologies to monitor person-centered outcomes. This approach includes the use of mobile technologies and social and behavioral science to understand the person’s perception of progress, their perception of environmental supports and barriers, their level of participation, and level of independence. Use large-scale datasets and big data approaches to measure exposure responses to therapy and device use among people with disabilities.

Multimodal Approaches to Promote Plasticity and Sensorimotor Function

Strategic Plan Theme 5: Advancing Safe and Effective Therapeutics and Devices for Pregnant and Lactating Women, Children, and People with Disabilities

Gap: Many rehabilitation interventions are multimodal, but there are few funded studies that target combination therapies.

Priority: Research on multimodal approaches that promote plasticity and sensorimotor function, particularly the combination of physical therapy with regenerative, pharmacological, or stimulation treatments. These projects may require team science approaches with multidisciplinary researchers.

Objective Markers of Treatment Response and Functional Progress

Strategic Plan Theme 5: Advancing Safe and Effective Therapeutics and Devices for Pregnant and Lactating Women, Children, and People with Disabilities

Gap: Rehabilitation outcomes are difficult to predict and measure objectively.

Priority: Research to develop objective measures of rehabilitation treatment response and functional progress. Promote discovery of biomarkers that predict rehabilitation treatment response and enable the tailoring of interventions to the needs, abilities, and resources of the person with disability. Identify new modeling approaches and better outcome measures to support the use of pharmacotherapies combined with rehabilitation strategies to reduce the barriers to testing for adults and children with physical disabilities.

Prevention and Treatment of Secondary Conditions

Strategic Plan Cross-Cutting Topic: Disease Prevention

Gap: There is a limited understanding of the incidence and prevalence of secondary conditions (e.g., pain, musculoskeletal dysfunction, deconditioning, skin breakdown, cognitive impairment, behavioral/social/emotional difficulties, and sleep disturbances) among individuals with physical disability; similarly, there are relatively few targeted strategies to prevent or treat these conditions.

Priority: Research to identify, prevent, and treat key secondary conditions that are associated with physical impairments and disabilities. This includes the role of rehabilitation approaches and self-management techniques for individuals and families.

Transition to Adulthood

Strategic Plan Theme 4: Improving Child and Adolescent Health and the Transition to Adulthood

Gap: The field lacks data on the types of interventions, services, and outcome assessments needed to ensure successful transition from pediatric rehabilitation care to general medical services.

Priority: Research aimed at improving the transition to adult health care for young adults with physical disabilities. Develop measures that may help determine successful transition at the individual, provider, or system level to improve care for adolescents. Develop rehabilitation pathways to optimize recovery for children who experience critical illness and/or traumatic injury.  

  • Theresa Cruz, Director
  • Toyin Ajisafe, Health Scientist Administrator
    Grant Categories: Rehabilitation devices and technology development; rehabilitation diagnostics and interventions
  • Joe Bonner, Health Scientist Administrator
    Grant Categories: Adaptation and plasticity; rehabilitation diagnostics and interventions
  • Sue Marden, Health Scientist Administrator
    Grant Categories: Rehabilitation diagnostics and interventions; chronic symptom management in rehabilitation; rehabilitation health services research; environmental factors affecting rehabilitation
  • Ralph Nitkin, Health Scientist Administrator
    Grant Categories: Rehabilitation training and career development; adaptation and plasticity
  • Maria Nurminskaya, Health Scientist Administrator
    Grant Categories: Rehabilitation devices and technology development; rehabilitation diagnostics and interventions
  • Alicia Ross, Program Analyst
  • Dave Gutekunst, AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow
  • Eliza Polk, Administrative Assistant
Visit Partners page

Partners

Learn about the organizations and other agencies that NCMRR works with to advance research and care.

NIH Research Plan on Rehabilitation

NIH Research Plan on Rehabilitation (PDF 1.51 MB)

Read the 2021 trans-NIH plan, with progress on the 2016 plan, themes and objectives, and collaboration with other federal agencies.


Highlights

  • View the YouTube recording external link for the Medical Rehabilitation Research Speaker Series webinar Assistive and Rehabilitation Technology, held on May 20, 2022.
  • Read a summary of responses (PDF 148 KB) to NOT-HD-21-001: Request for Information (RFI): Solicitation of Input on Common Data Elements (CDEs) for Lower Limb Loss Research Standards. Responses came from stakeholders within the limb loss research community.
  • Safe Return to School For All  summarizes current evidence and best practices to help administrators, educators, and families and students—including students with disabilities—return to school safely in the context of COVID-19. The information provided is based on collaborative research from the NICHD-funded Washington University Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center, the University of Missouri-Kansas City Institute of Human Development, and the Kennedy Krieger Institute (Maryland), in collaboration with the Special School District of St. Louis County, Missouri.
  • Check Our Progress on NICHD Strategic Plan 2020 themes
  • Read a summary of responses (PDF 178 KB) to NOT-HD-20-033: RFI: Response to Proposed NIH Rehabilitation Research Plan Objectives. Stakeholders in the field of rehabilitation research offered input on the draft research themes and objectives for the NIH Research Plan on Rehabilitation (PDF 443 KB).
  • Read the summary (PDF 865 KB) of the Rehabilitation Research 2020: Envisioning a Functional Future conference, which NCMRR co-sponsored on October 15-16, 2020.
  • Read a summary of responses (PDF 187 KB) to NOT-HD-20-004: Request for Information (RFI): Seeking Rapid Advancement of Research on Limb Regeneration, led by NCMRR. Stakeholders with knowledge of limb regeneration research offered insight into the current state of the science and its potential for rapid advancement.
  • We asked and you replied! Read the summary of responses (PDF 113 KB) received from stakeholders involved in medical rehabilitation research regarding their perception of progress on priorities set in the 2016 Research Plan on Rehabilitation.
  • NCMRR grantee Dr. Sook-Lei Lew, from the University of Southern California, is featured in a new video  for the series Fast Forward Girls, which encourages girls to learn more about science, technology, engineering, and math fields. (Look for her around 05:05)  
  • Dr. Alison Cernich hosted a livestream with NCMRR grantee Dr. Peter Pidcoe for a special Take Your Child to Work Day event. Dr. Pidcoe discusses with participants a device he helped design that gives babies at risk for cerebral palsy a robotic boost to crawl.  
  • Dr. Cernich hosted a livestream with NCMRR grantee Dr. Michael Boninger at NIH's SCI2020 meeting on spinal cord injury research. Learn about his thought-controlled robotic glove and other types of brain-computer interface devices that can help those with motor impairments.  
  • NCMRR-Related NICHD News
  • Learn more about NICHD's Small Business Research Programs
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