Aims and scope

Disrupted motor function is a hallmark feature of neurological conditions such as spinal cord injury, stroke, Parkinson’s Disease and Essential Tremor (ET). Understanding neural and non-neural mechanisms underlying impaired motor control is of utmost importance to design rehabilitation strategies.

The main goal of our lab is to design breakthrough technology-based interventions to promote neurorecovery by using neural interfaces and techniques that might strengthen or modulate neural pathways. To achieve our goal, we take a multidisciplinary approach in our research, using a combination of neurophysiology, biomechanics and robotics approaches in human patients and animal models. Currently, we devote our research to the development and design of novel neuroprostheses for tremor suppresion.

Methodology

As part of the Translational Neuroscience Department of Cajal Institute (CSIC), our lab cooperates with other groups aiming to foster the transfer of knowledge from animal to human research. We also collaborate closely with Hospitals in order to test our rehabilitative approaches in a variety of pathologies: Essential Tremor (ET), Parkinson’s Disease (PD), Spinal Cord Injury (SCI), Stroke and Patellofemoral Pain (PFP).

Part of our research includes:

  • Development of novel Bidirectional Hyper-Connected Neural Systems (BHNS). This new concept of human-machine interface intends to enhance current neural interfaces by including minimally invasive nodes (recording/stimulation electrodes) across multiple muscles in the body. Feasibility of BHNS has been tested in our lab as: (1) tremor assessment and suppression tool in ET and PD patients; and (2) interface between SCI patients and exoskeletons.
  • The use of non-invasive technology(e.g., transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation – TENS, functional electrical stimulation – FES and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation – rTMS) to rehabilitate patients that suffered a SCI, seeking to stimulate reparative phenomena such as neuroplasticity, which ultimately can partially restore some lost function, as well as to relieve some side effects like spasticity or pain.
  • Cortical somatotopic representation of rodents hindlimb by means of Implanted neural interfaces to develop novel optical electrodes. This is a collaborative work with the Experimental and computational electrophysiology Lab (Cajal Institute).

We also collaborate with the Neuromuscular Coordination Lab to assess motor control in a wide range of pathologies (e.g., stroke, SCI, cerebral palsy). In the past, we have combined the analysis of muscle synergies with gait analysis to assess locomotion performance in these groups of patients. Currently, we are using this approach in PFP patients, as part of a collaboration with University Nove de Julho (Sao Paulo, Brazil). Future projects include synergy-based rehabilitation therapies during lower and upper limb cycling. This is a collaborative work with Professor Jozsef Laczko (University of Pecs, Hungary).

Research Projects

EXTEND – Bidirectional Hyper-Connected Neural Systems (European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 779982)

Hindlimb Somatotopy – (Internal Pilot Project aiming to develop novel optical electrodes and decode hindlimb movement)

People

Lab Leaders:
Dr. Filipe O. Barroso
Dr. Juan C. Moreno

PhD students, MsD students:
Alejandro Pascual-Valdunciel (PhD student)
Camila Rodrigues de Carvalho e Carvalho (PhD student)
Alejandra García Álvarez (Bachelor student, Biomedical Engineering)
Beatriz Adán Barrientos (Bachelor student, Biomedical Engineering)
Marvin Fernandez Garcia (Bachelor student, Biomedical Engineering + Telecommunication Systems Engineering)

Collaborators:
Nuria Benito Frias (Phd, Experimental and computational electrophysiology Lab – Cajal Institute)
Oscar Herreras (Principal Investigator, Experimental and computational electrophysiology Lab – Cajal Institute)
Julian Taylor (Sensorimotor Function Group Lead at the Hospital Nacional de Parapléjicos and Senior Fellow at Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford)
Paulo Lucareli (Professor and researcher, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at the University Nove de Julho, Sao Paulo, Brazil)
Jozsef Laczko (Professor, Department of Information Technology and Biorobotics, Faculty of Science, University of Pecs; Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Wigner Research Centre for Physics, Hungary)