National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR)

Through basic, translational, and clinical research, NCMRR fosters 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.

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Learn more about the center's National Advisory Board on Medical Rehabilitation Research, which meets twice a year to discuss NCMRR's portfolio and research directions.

Check out the NCMRR-led NIH Research Plan on Rehabilitation (PDF 1.5 MB), which outlines the conduct, support, and coordination of medical rehabilitation research across NIH.

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.  

  • Challenges, Innovation Competitions, and NICHD: NCMRR supports NICHD activities related to the America COMPETES Act to encourage innovation and improve U.S. competitiveness.
  • COVID-19 in Underserved Populations: NCMRR helps NICHD in efforts to understand the cause of more pronounced disparities during the pandemic in outcomes and disproportionate effects among people with disabilities, including physical disabilities and movement problems.
  • Limb Loss and Preservation Registry: external link This national database, supported by NCMRR and the U.S. Department of Defense, is the first registry for people who have lost limbs. The registry will be vital for preventing limb loss, improving amputation surgeries, refining rehabilitation approaches, and guiding the development of devices for people with limb loss.
  • Medical Rehabilitation Research Resource Network (MR3 Network): With the support of NCMRR and several NIH institutes, this network builds research infrastructure in medical rehabilitation by providing investigators with access to expertise, courses and workshops, technologies, and other collaborative opportunities from allied disciplines such as neuroscience, engineering, applied behavior, and the social sciences.
  • Neuroscience Research Support at NICHD: NCMRR plays a role in NICHD’s commitment to supporting research in the neurosciences, particularly as they affect developing systems and rehabilitation.
  • NICHD Priorities for Dissemination and Implementation Research: Priorities include studies specific to the institute’s focus populations, including persons with disabilities.
  • Opioid-Related Research Supported by NICHD: The institute supports multiple research activities designed to help understand how opioids affect its priority populations.
  • Pain-Related Research: Understanding how to manage and treat pain is a central goal of NICHD research. NCMRR contributes to this goal through its research program areas and priorities.

  • 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
  • June Lee, Special Assistant to the NCMRR Director
  • 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
  • Eliza Polk, Administrative Assistant
  • Alicia Ross, Program Analyst
Visit Partners page


Learn about some 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 NIH-wide plan, which updates 2016 plan activities, themes, objectives, & collaboration.


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