Monica Ann Gorassini


The main goal of our research is to understand the neuronal mechanisms that mediate the development of spasticity and motor dysfunction after spinal cord injury and cerebral palsy. We examine how neurons in an injured nervous system adapt to produce the uncontrolled and unwanted muscle contractions that affect the majority of patients with spinal cord injury and cerebral palsy. One of the neurons we study is the motoneuron that excites the muscles of the limbs to produce movement. Previously, we have shown that after spinal injury, the excessive and uncontrolled activity of motoneurons during a spasm is mediated, in large part, by the activation of calcium persistent inward currents (PICs) in the human motoneuron. We study why motoneurons recover PICs and self sustained activity after chronic spinal cord injury and if similar mechanisms exist in cerebral palsy. We also examine the effects of intensive motor training in adults with incomplete spinal cord injuries and in babies with stroke. We aim to develop new pharmacological and rehabilitative therapies to both control spasticity after trauma to the central nervous system and improve residual motor movements.