Exploring Heart and Brain Health in Spinal Cord Injury

Head-up tilt test for activating sympathetic nervous system.

Seeking students that are interested in the following but not limited to these fields: biomedical engineering, public health, rehabilitation science, and human physiology. We are promoting heart and brain functions in people with spinal cord injury. 

Project description

This project is to examine the effect of acute exercise on heart and brain functions in people with spinal cord injury by using a set of human physiological tests and biomedical devices. Psychological factors are also investigated as they may moderate heart and brain functions. The ultimate goal of this project is to help people with spinal cord injury to achieve their lifelong goals. 

Project outcome

At the end of the student's engagement, students will have different options to present their outcomes, such as poster presentation, undergraduate student conference attendance, co-authorship of scientific article, self-designed accessories for functional near-infrared spectroscopy, etc. 

Project details

Timing, eligibility and other details
Length of commitment Students are encouraged to devote to a long period, such as year-long, but students that can commit for about a semester or so are also welcomed
Start time Anytime
In-person, remote, or hybrid? In-Person
Level of collaboration Depending on the student's personal goal, they can work as an individual project or they can choose to collaborate with other students 
Benefits Research experience
Who is eligible All undergraduate students 

Core partners

Students may have opportunities to collaborate and communicate with the principle investigator's committee members:
  • Dr. Sue Ann Sisto, Chair and Professor of Rehabilitation Science
  • Dr. Filip Stefanovic, Teaching Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Dr. Jeffrey Miecznikowski, Associate Professor of Biostatistics
  • Dr. Nancy Chiaravalloti, Director of Centers for Neuropsychology, Neuroscience & Traumatic Brain Injury Research, Kessler Foundation 

Project mentor

Wenjie Ji

PhD Candidate

Rehabilitation Sciences

Phone: (716) 907-2508

Email: wji4@buffalo.edu

Start the project

  1. Email the project mentor using the contact information above to express your interest and get approval to work on the project. (Here are helpful tips on how to contact a project mentor.)
  2. After you receive approval from the mentor to start this project, click the button to start the digital badge. (Learn more about ELN's digital badge options.) 

Preparation activities

Once you begin the digital badge series, you will have access to all the necessary activities and instructions. Your mentor has indicated they would like you to also complete the specific preparation activities below. Please reference this when you get to Step 2 of the Preparation Phase. 

Please read the following articles for obtaining background information of this research project:
  1. Houtman S, Colier WN, Oeseburg B, Hopman MT. Systemic circulation and cerebral oxygenation during head-up tilt in spinal cord injured individuals. Spinal Cord. Mar 2000;38(3):158-63. doi:10.1038/sj.sc.3100970
  2. Wecht JM, Weir JP, Bauman WA. Blunted heart rate response to vagal withdrawal in persons with tetraplegia. Clin Auton Res. Dec 2006;16(6):378-83. doi:10.1007/s10286-006-0367-y
  3. Wecht JM, De Meersman RE, Weir JP, Spungen AM, Bauman WA. Cardiac autonomic responses to progressive head-up tilt in individuals with paraplegia. Clin Auton Res. Dec 2003;13(6):433-8. doi:10.1007/s10286-003-0115-5
  4. Wecht JM, Weir JP, DeMeersman RE, et al. Cold face test in persons with spinal cord injury: age versus inactivity. Clin Auton Res. Aug 2009;19(4):221-9. doi:10.1007/s10286-009-0009-2
  5. Purkayastha S, Sorond F. Transcranial Doppler ultrasound: technique and application. Semin Neurol. Sep 2012;32(4):411-20. doi:10.1055/s-0032-1331812
  6. Suwabe K, Hyodo K, Fukuie T, et al. Positive mood while exercising influences beneficial effects of exercise with music on prefrontal executive function: A functional NIRS study. Neuroscience. 2021;454(1)doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2020.06.007


Rehabilitation Science, Biomedical Engineering, Human Physiology, Psychology, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy