Babak Afsharipour Department of Biomedical Engineering

How do “excitable” spinal circuits affect children with cerebral palsy?

Although there are many studies examining changes to the damaged brain in children with cerebral palsy, not much is known about the development of spinal cord pathways, which relay contraction-relaxation messages from brain to muscles to move bones around their joints. Afsharipour aims to understand the role of these pathways in producing uncontrolled, involuntary movements—termed “spasticity”—that hampers the production of already weakened voluntary movements.

Using newly discovered muscle recording and data analysis techniques that measure activity from multiple areas over the muscle, researchers can track the development of specific spinal nerve cell properties as spasticity develops from childhood to adolescence. This information will help to develop drug and rehabilitative treatments.

Afsharipour’s goal is to become an independent investigator examining motor dysfunction in children. He wants to expand his postdoctoral work and examine how treatments like injecting botulinum toxin, commonly known as Botox, or intensive rehabilitation may affect the muscle activity across the treated muscle.

This fellowship has been funded by the generous support of the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation through the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute.