Brown-affiliated neuroscience center at Providence V.A. renewed

The Center for Neurorestoration and Neurotechnology, based at the Providence V.A. Medical Center and led by a Brown professor, received a $4.5 million funding renewal.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — The Rehabilitation Research and Development Center for Neurorestoration and Neurotechnology (CfNN) at the Providence V.A. Medical Center, which is directed by neurologist and Brown University engineering professor Leigh Hochberg, has received a five-year, $4.5 million funding renewal, the hospital announced today.

“We’re honored to have the opportunity to continue developing, testing and implementing neurotechnologies and other restorative therapies for veterans with disorders affecting mobility, limb function or mental health,” said Hochberg, who is also a critical care neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and director of the BrainGate consortium and clinical trial. “Together with our academic partners, we look forward to creating a new generation of extraordinary rehabilitation therapies for veterans.”

CfNN is one of 12 centers nationwide funded through the V.A.’s Rehabilitation Research and Development Service, which aims to generate knowledge and innovations to advance rehabilitative health. The center brings together scientists, engineers and clinicians from the V.A., Brown and the University’s Carney Institute for Brain Science and affiliated hospitals in an effort to advance neurotechnology, with the ultimate goal of restoring lost function for veterans with injuries or illness of the nervous system.

Since the center’s launch in 2012, its researchers, as part of the BrainGate consortium, have led the development of advanced neural interfaces for veterans and others with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), spinal cord injury and other forms of paralysis. The center also expanded its research in using brain imaging — such as magnetic resonance imaging, commonly called MRI — and new brain stimulation methods to develop and improve treatments for other conditions important to veterans, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression and chronic pain.

Among CfNN’s successes are studies of veterans with upper limb loss, which enabled Food and Drug Administration approval of the Life Under Kinetic Evolution (LUKE) arm, the first commercially available prosthetic arm that translates signals from a patient’s muscles into complex motions. The work contributed to CfNN’s Dr. Linda Resnik — a professor of health services, policy and practice at Brown — receiving the 2017 Paul B. Magnuson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Rehabilitation Research and Development, the V.A.’s highest honor in the field.