Outstanding Neurorehabilitation Clinician Scientist Award to Dr. Monica Perez

Monica A. Perez, P.T., Ph.D. , Associate Professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery and The Miami Project, received the 2017 Outstanding Neurorehabilitation Clinician Scientist Award from the American Society of Neurorehabilitation (ASNR) Education Foundation Board.  The Board is made up of past ASNR presidents, who selected Dr. Perez for this award. The award honors scholarly achievements and contributions to knowledge about mechanisms of neural repair, translational research from mechanisms of repair to clinical practice, and clinical neurorehabilitation.

Dr. Perez received the award and presented a lecture entitled “Neurophysiology Guiding Rehabilitation after Spinal Cord Injury” at the society’s annual meeting in Baltimore on November 10. “I am extremely honored and humbled to be chosen for this award,” said Dr. Perez. “I strongly believe that we can improve the rehabilitation of our patients by devoting time to improve our understanding of the fundamental mechanisms that underlie the disease process.”

Dr. Perez’s research interests include improving motor control in humans with spinal cord injury (SCI).  Her laboratory has three ongoing main projects related to the control of voluntary movement in humans with and without SCI. The first project examines the contribution of the primary motor cortex, the corticospinal system, and subcortical pathways to the control of precision and power grip. The second project aims to examine the organization of paired-pulse TMS-induced I-waves after SCI. The third project aims to use spike-time dependent plasticity to enhance the activity of residual corticospinal projections after SCI. The corticospinal tract is an important target for motor recovery after SCI in humans. Voluntary motor output depends on the efficacy of synapses between corticospinal axons and spinal motoneurons, which can be modulated by precisely timed neuronal spikes.

“Monica stands alongside other previous distinguished awardees including, V.S. Rakmachandran (2016), Randy J. Nudo (2011), and Mark Tuszynski (2008) as the 2017 Outstanding Neurorehabilitation Clinician Scientist awardee. Her academic and clinical expertise exemplify the very core of ASNR, and for that she is most deserving of the ONCS Award,” Carolee Winstein, P.T., Ph.D., FAPTA, FAHA, ASNR President.

“I have known Monica since I mentored her successful preparation for a NINDS Competitive Fellowship and a K99/00,” said Leonardo G. Cohen, Chief of the Human Cortical Physiology and Stroke Neurorehabilitation Section at NINDS. “Since then she matured to become a widely recognized leader in the field of spinal cord injury and brain stimulation, as shown in this year’s SfN. More importantly, she has been an inspiration to young scientist in the US and Europe, and a remarkable teacher and mentor. She is one of those few individuals capable of inspiring others to great accomplishments while maintaining her humility.”