Neurostimulation to Restore Breathing with Neuromuscular Disorders – Experimental Biology Meeting 2016

FinalBannerFour Physical Therapy faculty participated in a symposium on Neurostimulation and Restoration of Breathing Function at the Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego on April 5, 2016.  The session was organized and moderated by Drs. Gordon Mitchell and  Kristi Streeter ( a postdoc in Dr.  Fuller’s laboratory).

This symposium highlighted exciting discoveries concerning the therapeutic potential of electrical stimulation to promote functional recovery of breathing capacity (and ventilator independence) in neuromuscular disorders that compromise breathing. This is an emerging field that one cannot say is “established.” Thus, in this symposium (which should be considered exploratory), the potential of direct spinal stimulation, diaphragm/phrenic pacing and tonic epidural stimulation of the spinal cord was considered to promote long-lasting functional recovery in humans and animal models of spinal injury and Pompe Disease. Early indications are that, in addition to the benefits of breathing driven directly by electrical stimulation, these treatments also invoke mechanisms of neuromuscular plasticity that enable ventilator independence (i.e., after the electrical stimulation has ended). The session began with an investigator that has been leading the field to restore non-respiratory motor function after spinal injury (V. Mushahwar). Then, three young investigators (all female, all junior faculty or postdoctoral trainees, one URM) presented their data and ideas concerning the potential of electrical stimulation as a rehabilitation strategy, and mechanisms potentially leading to long-lasting functional recovery. Two talks emphasized neurostimulation in ventilator dependent patients.


  • Vivian Mushahwar — Dept of Medicine and Rehabilitation, Univ. of Alberta
  • Emily Fox — Dept of Physical Therapy, Univ. of Florida
  • Barbara Smith — Dept of Physical Therapy, Univ. of Florida
  • Elisa Gonzalez-Rothi — Dept of Physical Therapy, Univ. of Florida