NCMRR Research Program Areas

The NCMRR mission is to foster the development of scientific knowledge needed to enhance the health, productivity, independence, and quality of life for people with physical disabilities across the lifespan. We support research directly through research grants, training and career development activities, small business and technology grants, and research infrastructure. In addition, we work to coordinate and promote rehabilitation research through collaborations with other NIH institutes, federal partners, and through public-private partnerships.

Program Officials: Joe Bonner or Ralph Nitkin

This research area focuses on projects that enhance understanding of the basic processes of repair and plasticity in body tissues, and the basic mechanisms involved in adaptation and rehabilitation of deficits. Examples of projects supported include, but are not limited to:

  • Substrates of plasticity in animal models and human studies
  • Prognostic and surrogate markers of plasticity, adaptation, and recovery
  • Precision medicine to optimize rehabilitative treatment strategies and outcomes; role of genetic/genomic factors
  • New strategies to promote plasticity and adaptation
  • Activity-mediated therapies, external stimulation, pharmacological factors, and other combinatorial approaches
  • Tissue repair and recovery, cell and gene therapies, extracellular supports
  • Developmental issues: unique vulnerabilities and opportunities to promote plasticity

Program Officials: Toyin Ajisafe or Maria Nurminskaya

The center supports research on development and refinement of novel devices and technologies to improve function for individuals with physical disabilities. Examples of projects supported include, but are not limited to:

  • Orthotics, prosthetics, and robotics devices and interfaces
  • Assistive technologies
  • Invasive and non-invasive biological sensors, prosthetic systems, or implants to improve function
  • New control methods and improved sensory feedback
  • Strategies for controlling and adapting to the environment
  • Advanced wheelchair designs and enhancements and other mobility devices
  • Biomaterials and tissue interfaces, nanotechnology, bionics

Program Officials: Sue Marden, Toyin Ajisafe, or Maria Nurminskaya

NCMRR supports activities on the development and validation of new diagnostics or novel interventions or the refinement and validation of existing interventions for conditions that result in disability. Examples of projects supported include, but are not limited to:

  • Innovations in diagnostic methods such as advanced imaging, fluid biomarkers, or genetic profiling to assess intervention readiness, status of rehabilitation progress, or markers of potential deterioration or improvement
  • Examination of the timing, frequency, duration, and intensity of specific rehabilitation interventions
  • Interventions to improve functional capacity in individuals with paralysis, plegia, spasticity, or contractures
  • Interventions to improve balance, gait, and/or mobility
  • Interventions to promote motor learning, adaptation, and recovery
  • Enhanced tools and modeling strategies for studying biomechanics in populations with physical impairments and disabilities
  • Development and validation of improved health outcome measures for diagnostic and intervention research

Program Official: Sue Marden

Center-funded efforts in this area focus on understanding mechanisms of impairment, refinement, and validation of existing interventions, and/or developing new interventions for impairments following injury or disease to mitigate symptom burden. Examples of projects supported include, but are not limited to:

  • Methods to increase screening for chronic conditions or preventable conditions in individuals with physical disability
  • Prevention and treatment strategies for mitigating symptoms associated with multiple chronic conditions in individuals with physical impairments, including persistent pain, symptoms of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular deconditioning, fatigue, symptoms of overuse injuries, pressure ulcers, sleep disturbances, and depressive symptoms
  • Improving muscle capacity in chronic physical disability to include therapeutic or adaptive exercise and muscle stimulation; muscle-disuse syndromes and contractures
  • Rehabilitation interventions for improvement of physical disability and comorbid cognitive, sensory, or somatic consequences of impairment, disease, or injury
  • Autonomic function in the context of injury or specific conditions

Program Official: Sue Marden

This research focuses on development, assessment, and impact of rehabilitation services, with an emphasis on home and community-based interventions. Examples of projects supported in this program include, but are not limited to:

  • Development of large data analytic infrastructure and techniques to drive discovery and potential targets for development
  • Use of existing electronic health data to determine real-world applications of treatments, outcomes, and barriers to access services
  • Reliable measures of impairment, disability, activity, and participation in home and community settings
  • Interventions implemented in home and community-based settings
  • Implementation of community wellness programs and alternate delivery systems
  • Assessment of long-term health consequences, economic analyses, and effects on health system costs of rehabilitation interventions and health supports
  • Comparative effectiveness research on rehabilitation therapies, clinical supports, or implementation methods

Program Officials: Sue Marden and Toyin Ajisafe

Work in this area addresses the role of environmental factors and external supports in a wide range of treatment settings and conditions. Examples of projects supported in this program include, but are not limited to:

  • Understanding the role of environmental factors as barriers or supports
  • Health disparities and racial/ethnic/socioeconomic factors that relate to the diagnosis, treatment, and support of people with chronic physical disabilities
  • Telemedicine or mHealth approaches to treatment delivery or to enhance adherence to treatment; caregiver-assisted therapies
  • Psychosocial supports and community strategies to promote healthy behaviors; the role of diet and exercise
  • Caregiver supports and interventions; family supports and interventions
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