Using biosensors to identify therapy-driven brain reorganization in children

2013 Pilot Project Read More


Principal Investigator: Bradley Schlaggar (WashU Neurology)
Co-Investigators: Nico Dosenbach (WashU Neurology), Catherine Lang (WashU Physical Therapy), Steve Petersen (WashU Neurology)


Brain injury is the main cause of disability in children. Following brain injury, children often compensate remarkably well. It is thought that the developing human brain compensates for injuries through use-driven reorganization of the remaining intact brain structures, but the mechanisms remain unknown. Understanding these mechanisms is important for designing neurorehabilitative treatments that enhance recovery. Constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT) is a treatment for one-sided weakness that requires restraining the stronger upper extremity while undergoing intense therapy for the weaker side. CIMT provides an elegant model-system for studying the neural mechanisms of use-driven brain reorganization. Advances in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain (“multi-modal brain MRI”) now allow us to track changes in the brain’s functional organization. To identify brain changes most important for improved motor behavior we also need to acquire accurate, unbiased data about real-world behavior. This project will pioneer the use of wearable movement biosensors in children to provide continuous measures of three-dimensional extremity movement, from which we can derive the accurate outcome measures needed for clinically useful brain-behavior correlations. Merging advanced multi-modal MRI and biosensor technologies will identify functional links between brain regions most important for improving real-world movement in children. Such critical brain links can then be targeted with medications, therapies, brain stimulation and neurofeedback.

Grants and Awards

“Evaluating therapeutic brain reorganization in children with spastic paralysis using functional MRI and wearable biosensors”
Spastic Paralysis Research Foundation Kiwanis International, Illinois-Eastern Iowa District
This award provides funds to study real-life motor activity in children with hemiplegia and typically developing controls using wearable accelerometry biosensors.

Early Career Research Fellowship (Dosenbach)
Jacobs Foundation
This fellowship provides funds for studying neurorehabilitation in children with brain injury.

“Pediatric brain injury recovery via use-driven functional network reorganization” 
NINDS K23 NS088590 (PI, Dosenbach)
Keys to unlocking the brain’s remarkable capacity for recovery after injury can be found in its complex network architecture. Therefore, we aim to understand how constraint-induced therapy drives network reorganization.

Updated June 2017

Hope Center Investigators

Bradley Schlaggar

Steve Petersen

Nico Dosenbach


This pilot project is made possible by the Danforth Foundation Challenge.

Danforth Challenge