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The Fouad Lab is exploring adaptive mechanisms (plasticity) that occur following spinal cord injury and  how they influence recovery. Such plasticity mechanisms include, sprouting of nerve fibers, oxygenation of the spinal cord, and even changes in the gut bacteria. We aim to develop treatments to improve recovery following spinal cord injuries. At the same time, Dr. Fouad is also the Co-Director and the Chief Editor of the Open Data Commons for Spinal Cord Injury data repository. The spirit of the ODC-SCI is to promote open exchange of data, tools and ideas in order to accelerate treatments and cures for spinal cord injury.

The Fenrich Lab is studying the roles of V3 spinal interneurons in locomotion and skilled forelimb motor tasks before and after SCI. We are also testing whether V3 neurons are an essential neuron in the circuitry activated by epidural spinal electrical stimulation, which is a therapy often used to promote motor recovery after SCI. To facilitate preclinical animal research within our laboratory and others, we regularly design, develop and test robotic devices to automate the training and testing of animals in motor tasks. 

The Bennett Lab explores how spinal neuronal networks perform the tasks of daily living, including standing, walking and sensing movement. Post-spinal cord injury the lack of brain connections impairs control. We explore novel methods to reanimate these networks and restore functions like standing after injury, using optogenetics, pharmacology and rehabilitation training. After injury spinal neurons become hyperactive, leading to muscle spasms and sensory disorders. Harnessing this hyperactivity is crucial to restoring function, which we examine using mouse models.


We specialize in functional outcome measures and rehabilitative training, with a particular focus on forelimb motor function, utilizing animal models to study these techniques. We have developed innovative automated devices and protocols for training reaching, grasping, and retrieval using food pellets. We also employ a range of electrophysiological techniques, such as motor evoked potentials, to evaluate treatment efficacy and anatomical methods, including opto-genetics, neuronal tract tracing, cell culture and immunohistochemistry, to investigate the mechanisms of recovery. Furthermore, we employ a range of microscopy methods, such as confocal and bright field, to examine anatomical changes, while molecular approaches are used for developing new treatment methods. 
Complementing these in vivo methods, the Bennett lab specializes in cellular studies of whole adult spinal cords maintained in vitro after chronic spinal cord injury. This allows detailed dissection of the neural and molecular pathways that underly recovery from injury, using optogenetics, intracellular and extracellular recording, receptor and channel pharmacology, single cell RNAseq, immuno- and viral labelling, and live tissue two photon microscopy.


Our laboratories and behavioral testing (sensory and motor) areas are fully equipped for students to have a full range experience. For tissue processing we have dedicated spaces and designated storage to keep various experiments ongoing simultaneously. A microscopy dedicated room equipped with a confocal and epifluorescence microscopes, electrophysiological equipment and two surgical facilities.
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We are currently engaged in the following lines of research:​

  • The plasticity promoting effect of Lipopolysaccharide

  • The role of gut microbiome imbalance in mental health changes after spinal cord injury

  • Using activity dependent neuronal pathways to promote neuroplasticity

  • Using a new drug called Pleiotrophin to locally enhance neuroplasticity

  • Roles of V3 spinal interneurons in locomotion and skilled forelimb motor tasks before and after SCI

  • Developing new robotic systems to train and test rats and mice in skilled reaching and grasping tasks

  • Data sharing through Open Data Commons for Spinal Cord Injury data repository

  • Using optogenetic activation of propriospinal neurons to restore posture and standing after SCI.

  • Examining an unexpected excitatory role of GABA on sensory axon function, and how excessive GABA can be reduced to both reduce muscle spasms and promote walking function after SCI.

  • Examining how calcium currents in motoneurons contribute to recovery of motor function after SCI.

  • Examining how training of neurovascular coupling can be used to restore spinal cord blood flow after SCI.




We would like to acknowledge generous support over the last years from all the sponsor:
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