New Studies Using BrainQ

(December – 2019) Since The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis was founded more than 30 years ago, our scientists have been focused on restoring function to people with spinal cord injury (SCI). Although our research strategies are constantly evolving, improving transmission within the central nervous system (neuroplasticity) has always been a major cornerstone of The Miami Project’s research efforts. Over the years, Miami Project scientists have developed techniques for understanding the complex network of circuitry that connects the brain to the body. Our researchers have evaluated a host of therapeutic strategies for improving and restoring voluntary control over weak or paralyzed muscles, including functional electrical stimulation (FES), transcranial magnetic stimulation, peripheral stimulation, and brain-computer interfaces. As technologies continue to evolve, the opportunities for combining physiology and neurotechnology become even more exciting. That is where BrainQ comes in.

Miami Project scientists have recently formed an alliance with an innovative Israeli startup company, BrainQ Technologies Ltd., to evaluate a device that produces non-invasive, low intensity, and low frequency electromagnetic fields. Electromagnetic stimulation has been shown to promote neuroplasticity, which may in turn improve functional recovery outcomes after SCI.

BrainQ’s technology targets the pathways within the central nervous system responsible for motor control, which can be identified by frequency-specific features. The natural rhythms of these networks are reinforced by electromagnetic fields applied to the brain and spinal cord, which may promote strengthening of motor pathways. To determine the optimal conditions of electromagnetic field exposure, Dr. W Dalton Dietrich, Professor and Scientific Director of The Miami Project, and Dr. Helen Bramlett, Professor, are evaluating BrainQ’s technology in a preclinical model of SCI. Five groups of rats are being exposed to very low intensity and frequency electromagnetic fields, with varying frequencies, over a period of several weeks. At different time points throughout the experiment, the rats undergo behavioral testing to evaluate motor and sensory function, as well as biomarker analysis. The information obtained by these experiments will help scientists determine whether animals treated with different frequencies of electromagnetic stimulation after SCI demonstrate improvements in function.

BrainQ’s technology is also being evaluated in clinical studies at The Miami Project, led by Dr. Dietrich and Dr. Katie Gant, Research Assistant Professor and Director of Education and Outreach. This is a multi-center study, which will be conducted along with researchers at Kessler Institute of Rehabilitation in West Orange, New Jersey and Sheba Medical Center in Israel. Each center will enroll four individuals with upper-extremity impairments resulting from cervical-level, incomplete SCI, who are 12-30 months post-injury. Participants will be exposed to very low intensity and frequency electromagnetic fields three times a week over a period of several months. The stimulation is so low in intensity, the participants probably won’t even feel it. These sessions will be accompanied by concurrent upper-extremity training with a physical therapist.

The research team, including Dr. Annie Palermo, Dr. George Jimsheleishvili, Dr. Deena Cilien and Danielle Cilien, will evaluate upper extremity strength and function at various time points, along with outcome measures related to spasticity, pain, and quality of life.

If you are interested in participating in this study, or other research studies at The Miami Project, please contact our Education Department at 305-243-7108 or mpinfo@med.miami.edu. You may also fill out an Intake Form.