We interact with the world through movement, and loss of movement compromises function and independence.

Led by Dr. Jason Carmel, the Movement Recovery Laboratory at Columbia University Irving Medical Center's Weinberg Family Cerebral Palsy Center investigates the nervous system circuits that enable movement in health and limit movement after injury to the central nervous system. Our projects focus on the interplay of brain and spinal cord in the control of skilled arm and hand function. We seek to understand how neural circuits are compromised by injury and to strengthen the brain and spinal connections that are spared.

We use activity-based therapies to promote anatomical and functional plasticity. This approach capitalizes on the fact that most brain and spinal cord injuries preserve some sensorimotor connections and that these connections can be targeted for therapy. Work conducted by the laboratory has demonstrated that these spared connections can be strengthened with endogenous activity (practice) or exogenous activity (electrical stimulation). Our team has developed a combination of anatomical, behavioral, and electrophysiological techniques to address the roles of injury and activity in promoting plasticity and recovery. Additionally, we seek to understand how plasticity of the motor systems changes with age and how developmental plasticity can be leveraged to promote recovery after injury.

As a consciously preclinical laboratory, we have developed animal models of human disease to improve our understanding of injury and therapy. We are now using these findings to conduct parallel experiments in humans. Our ultimate goal is to improve skilled movement in people with brain and spinal cord injury.

Project Focus Areas


The nervous system functions through a network of neural connections. We seek to understand which neural connections are critical for skilled movement, particularly of the arm and hand. We focus on the sensory and motor circuits that connect the brain and spinal cord. Learn more

Cellular activity is the basis of nervous system communication, and it is also a potent tool to alter connections. We target electrical stimulation to the sensorimotor circuits spared by injury in an effort to have them take over the functions of lost connections. Learn More

As a physician-scientist, Dr. Carmel is committed to doing experiments that ultimately improve function for people living with paralysis. Learn more