Model Systems Research Projects - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems Research Projects

The MRSCIMS is committed to one site-specific research project (MAPS), one multi-site project (COMIT), six collaborative modules, and involvement with the SCI National Database which are all explained below.

Mobility, Activity, and Participation in SCI (MAPS)

PI: George Hornby PT, PhD


Ambulatory individuals with motor incomplete SCI walk at very slow speeds and demonstrate limited physical activity and community mobility. Intensive locomotor training provided to subjects with chronic SCI leads to improved clinical and laboratory measures of walking, although data regarding changes in stepping activity in the home and community are limited. Patients with subacute, motor incomplete SCI who receive intense locomotor training on a treadmill or over ground improve walking function, with some evidence that these exercises ameliorates the rapid decline in neuromuscular and skeletal function early after SCI. While high doses of walking practice can be provided early following SCI, there is little data to demonstrate that these activities occur routinely during physical therapy treatments. No studies have evaluated the benefits of high intensity training compared to current practice on walking, secondary complications of neuromuscular and skeletal function, community mobility, participation, and quality of life. The proposed study is designed to evaluate these outcomes.


  1. Examine the effects of combined locomotor and strengthening interven-tions on locomotor function in individuals with subacute SCI
  2. Evaluate response of neuromuscular and musculoskeletal structures and function to a locomotor and strengthening intervention
  3. Examine improvements in community mobility and participation following intensive locomotor and strength training

Collaborative Module Involvement

The MRSCIMS is involved in the following six collaborative research modules (local/RIC PI follows title):

  1. SCIMS Data Set (PI: Anne Deutsch)- This project will help prepare the SCI Model System centers and the statistical center for the transition to revised patient assessment data sets mandated by Medicare. The project is lead by Anne Deutsch at RIC.  
  2. Equity and Quality in Assistive Technology (PI: Allen Heinemann)- This study will investigate the equity and quality of assistive technology provision and outcomes for individuals with SCI. This project is led by Michael Boninger, MD, at the University of Pittsburgh.  
  3. SCIRehab (PI: David Chen)- This project will document the many individual elements of SCI rehabilitation to learn which elements are most associated with better outcomes. This project is lead by Gale Whiteneck, PhD, at Craig Hospital.
  4. Diaphragm Pacing Study (PI: David Chen)- This study is designed to identify and decribe long term outcomes for persons using Diaphragmatic Pacing Systems. This project is led by Dan Lammertse, MD, at Craig Hospital.
  5. Enhancement and Evaluation of the SCI-FI Instrument (PI: Allen Heinemann)- This project will further refine and evaluate the SCI-FI instrument. This project is led by Allan Jette, PhD, at Boston University. 
  6. SCI-QOL Computer Adapted Testing (PI: Allen Heinemann)- This project will develop a psychometrically-sound measure of quality of life for individuals with SCI, further establish psychometrics of the SCI-QOL computer adaptive tests (CATs), and compare the responsiveness of the SCI-QOL CATs to legacy instruments. This project is led by David Tulsky, PhD, at the University of Michigan.

National Database:

PI: Allen Heinemann, PhD

Contact: Allison Todd 312-238-1226

The National Database involves the collection of acute, rehabilitation and follow-up data on SCI patients who receive care in the system following an SCI injury. Used to track the long-term consequences of SCI, the national database facilitates comprehensive research in the areas of medical rehabilitation, health and wellness, service delivery, short- and long-term interventions, and systems research.


PI: Allen Heinemann, PhD

Contact: Jessica Presperin Pedersen 312-238-2802

Database: Allison Todd:

COMIT is a multi-site, randomized controlled trial. It is designed to assess the impact of group training programs on the daily lives of people who need to use wheelchairs due to mobility limitations related to spinal cord injury. This collaborative project, led by Michael Boninger, MD, at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, also involves researchers working in the Northern New Jersey Spinal Cord Injury System, the South Florida Spinal Cord Injury System, and Dalhousie University.

This research is supported by the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) , Grant Number #H133N060014 .