Patient at the intermittent hypoxia and respiratory strength training from department of defense.

Dr. Emily Fox Awarded $2.4 Million Grant from Department of Defense

Clinical Expertise

Aug 20, 2018

The Department of Defense recently awarded Emily Fox, PT, DPT, Ph.D., NCS, clinical research scientist at Brooks Rehabilitation, a $2.4 million grant to study the effects of acute intermittent hypoxia and respiratory strength training to enhance breathing in people with chronic spinal cord injury (SCI).

SCI often damages neural pathways to respiratory motor neurons, causing muscle paralysis and decreased breathing capacity. Since respiratory impairment is the major cause of illness and death for individuals with SCI, it is critical to devise new strategies to restore breathing function and improve health. Drs. Fox and Mitchell aim to study the effectiveness of using acute intermittent hypoxia, a mild, non-invasive treatment that involves short episodes (~1 minute) of breathing low oxygen, to strengthen neural pathways. This strategy may improve the effects of respiratory strength training in individuals with respiratory impairment due to SCI.

“Respiratory complications are a critical health issue after SCI. Acute intermittent hypoxia has been shown in animal models to strengthen neural pathways and promote increased breathing function. This non-invasive approach holds great promise for individuals with SCI—to not only strengthen respiratory function but also to improve motor function. We are excited to conduct this study at Brooks and to bring this research to our patients and other individuals with chronic SCI,” says Dr. Fox.

This innovative research study, which will take place at the Brooks Clinical Research Center in Jacksonville, Fla, is expected to begin later this year. Dr. Fox, who is also a faculty member in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Florida, is joined by colleague Gordon Mitchell, Ph.D., a UF preeminence professor of neuroscience, to co-lead this four-year project. In addition to Fox and Mitchell, other project leaders include Daniel Martin, P.T., Ph.D., FACSM; David Fuller, Ph.D., Babette Brumback, Ph.D., Additionally, Geneva Tonuzi, M.D., Brooks Spinal Cord Injury Program Medical Director is a co-Investigator on this study. Kate Cavka, PT, DPT, NCS, a Brooks Clinician Scientist is the lead study therapist and Lou DeMark, PT, DPT, NCS, Neuromuscular Research Coordinator, is helping to coordinate the project.

Individuals who would like more information on the study should contact the Brooks Clinical Research Center at [email protected].

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