Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Physical Therapy & Human Movement Sciences

Neuromuscular Imaging Laboratory

Neuromuscular Imaging Image

Laboratory Description

The primary research focus in this laboratory has been and continues to be determining the pathophysiological mechanisms that contribute to the transition from acute to chronic pain following traumatic spinal injury; in particular, whiplash injuries from a motor vehicle collision. Specifically, we utilize structural and advanced magnetic resonance imaging applications to quantify the temporal development of altered spinal cord biochemistry and muscle degeneration as potential cellular and molecular substrates of persistent pain. We also are investigating the factors associated with impaired production of voice and swallow in this population. Broad applications of our work includes preventing, diagnosing, and treating whiplash related pain and its sequelae. This research is based on clinical and research experience and has expanded through interdisciplinary efforts involving the fields of magnetic resonance physics, radiology, biomedical engineering, speech language pathology, neurophysiology and physical therapy.

Current Projects

Neuromuscular Mechanisms Underlying the Transition to Chronic Pain in Whiplash

The primary objective of this prospective study is to identify and quantify the neuromuscular mechanisms underlying the transition from acute to chronic pain following whiplash injuries. Our previous research has shown neck muscle fatty infiltrates develop between 4-weeks and 3-months post whiplash injury but only in those people with higher levels of initial and pain and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorders. These muscle changes may represent one neurophysiologic basis for the transition to chronic pain in this population. However the exact (and early; < 4 weeks) neuropsychobiologic mechanisms underlying their development and contribution towards the transition remains unclear. This study aims to determine such mechanisms in order to explore and develop more informed management strategies.
(Funded by NIH KL2 RR025740KL2)

Neuromuscular Imaging

Working with colleagues in the Department of Radiology and Biomechanical Engineering, we are devising advanced MRI methods to image and quantify the spatio-temporal development of lean and fat tissue in the paraspinal and extremity muscles of people with traumatic and non-traumatic spinal and bodily pain.

Other Measures

fMRI and Diffusion Tensor Imaging of cortical and sub-cortical tissues; Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and electromyography

Principal Investigator

Lab Members

Collaborating Faculty