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.

The 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, and 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 is available.

NCMRR also led the development of the NIH Plan on Rehabilitation Research (PDF - 443 KB) plan for the conduct, support, and coordination of medical rehabilitation research across NIH.

Multimodal Approaches

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

Priority: Explore multimodal approaches that promote plasticity and sensorimotor function, particularly the combination of physical therapy with regenerative, pharmacological, or stimulation treatments.

Objective Markers of Progress

Gap: Prognosis and outcomes are difficult to predict and measure objectively. Patient-reported outcomes are not used as primary and/or secondary endpoints in trials, even though their psychometric properties are well established. A number of functional assessment measures that rely on clinician judgment have limited reliability and validity.

Priority: Develop objective measures and biomarkers that may predict rehabilitation treatment response, monitor functional progress, and tailor interventions to the individual abilities, needs, and resources of the person with disabilities.

Real-World Outcomes

Gap: Many rehabilitation outcome measures are targeted to clinic- or hospital- based assessments and do not generalize to function in real-world settings.

Priority: Develop scalable strategies and technologies to monitor outcomes in real-world settings (e.g., home, community, workplace and school). This approach includes the use of engineering and social-science to understand environmental supports and barriers, monitor individual participation, understand health service access, and support health and independence.

Secondary Conditions

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) in individuals with physical disability; similarly, there are relatively few targeted strategies to prevent or treat these conditions.

Priority: Focus on identifying, preventing, and treating key secondary conditions that are associated with physical impairments and disabilities.

Transition to Adulthood

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

Priority: Enable rehabilitation research that addresses key lifespan transitional issues, such as the physical and developmental transition from adolescence to early adulthood and functional independence.

  • Theresa Cruz, Health Scientist Administrator
    Grant Categories: Rehabilitation devices and technology development; 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
  • Louis Quatrano, Health Scientist Administrator
    Grant Categories: Rehabilitation devices and technology development; rehabilitation health services research; environmental factors affecting rehabilitation; Rehabilitation training and career development; small business programs
  • Jennifer Jackson, Program Analyst
  • Rusti Johnson, Administrative Assistant
  • Elizabeth Wilson, Contractor
NCMRR Partners


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

NCMRR NIH Partners

NIH Plan on Rehabilitation Research

Read the trans-NIH plan on current activities, needs and opportunities, and priorities for rehabilitation research.


Selected NICHD Research Advances of 2017

NCMRR-Related NICHD News

Learn more about NICHD's Small Business Research Programs.

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