Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Physical Therapy & Human Movement Sciences

Vicki Tysseling, PT, PhD

Lab Description

Tysseling Lab Page

The goal of our lab is to enhance functional recovery after spinal cord injury (SCI). Our approach to SCI research uses animal models to identify changes that occur within the spinal cord after injury. Specifically, we are interested in the changes that contribute to movement dysfunction. Once we have identified these changes, such as alterations in protein expression or neuronal excitability, we can create therapies that target these changes and produce a more functional motor output. We measure therapeutic effects not only in vitro on the local neuronal functions, but also in vivo on the overall behavior. We want to ensure that we are affecting the desired local neuronal target, and that this modification leads to overall improvements in function. In particular, we are focused on examining ventral motoneuronal and dorsal spinal interneuronal behavior, isolated spinal reflexes, single motor unit recordings, muscle activation and patterning during locomotion, and gross hyperreflexia.

Important Links

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine Department of Physiology
Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (formerly the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago)
Shirley Ryan AbilityLab spinal cord injury


Current Projects

Spinal cord injury (SCI) causes paralysis but also induces severe alterations to reflex function, resulting in debilitating involuntary muscle contractions or spasms. Our hypothesis is that the mechanisms underlying these reflex alterations are not identical across people with SCI but vary systematically with both the severity and location of injury. As a consequence, we suggest that treatment for spasms must be specifically tailored to individuals, depending on the nature of their injury. Our overall goal is to establish the rationale for such patient specific therapies, helping to transform clinical treatment of spasms and improve functional outcomes following SCI. This proposal uses a range of unique mouse preparations and novel therapeutics to test how these cellular alterations underlie the variability seen in spasms post SCI and provide directions for therapeutic intervention


Graduate Student Research

Owen Shelton - NUIN-DDH bursting interneuron characterization.