Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and
Human Development (NICHD) Scientific Vision
Plasticity Workshop
January 13-14, 2011
Bethesda, MD

Views expressed in the workshop presentations are those of the
presenters alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the NICHD.

As part of the NICHD’s mission, the Institute supports research on the body’s natural ability to repair itself and adapt to injury or disease so that this "plasticity" can be used to restore and enhance function. By "plasticity," the workshop organizing group means adaptive or maladaptive changes in structure and function of cells, tissues, and organs in response to endogenous and exogenous environmental changes, including use and disuse, chemical environment and gene expression, and disease and trauma. The term "plasticity" is most often used in reference to the central nervous system (i.e., neuroplasticity). However, almost all tissues are subject to plastic changes during development and in response to environmental change.

Manipulation of plasticity in the nervous system could be used to restore or enhance function and quality-of-life for persons with:

  • Traumatic injuries to the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves;
  • Damage to the nervous system due to stroke or other neurological catastrophes;
  • Chronic pain associated with direct injury to the nervous system or progressive neurological disease; and
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders, including those with learning disabilities.

Manipulation of plasticity in other tissues can be used to restore function through the use of stem cell technology, behavioral therapies, bioengineering approaches, and other interventions.


7:30 a.m.

Registration and Breakfast

8:00 a.m.

Opening Remarks (PDF - 869 KB)
Alan Guttmacher, M.D.
Director, NICHD, National Institutes of Health

8:15 a.m.

Workshop Overview
John Chae, M.D.
Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Case Western Reserve University
Director, Stroke Rehabilitation
MetroHealth Medical Center

8:30 a.m.

Plenary Session

10:15 a.m.


10:30 a.m.

Plenary Session (Cont.)

11:30 a.m.

Panel Discussion

12:30 p.m.


1:45 p.m.

Work Group Session

Work groups A1 and A2 address question 1 (Basic Science)

  1. There are a large number of plastic phenomena, each of which is explained by different specific mechanisms.
    1. Are there one or a few fundamental principles that can unify all of these phenomena at the level of molecular, cellular, and systems mechanisms that are valid across the domains of motor, sensory, and cognitive systems?
    2. Can these principles explain our present understanding of:
      1. Severe and mild developmental disorders, such as autism, Asperger syndrome, learning disabilities, etc.?
      2. Critical periods in plasticity during childhood development, throughout the aging process, or after injury?
      3. Systemic environmental influences that affect recovery?
      4. The effect of genetic and epigenetic mechanisms on variability of recovery from injury and disease?
      5. The ability of stem cells to assume protean phenotypes as a function of environmental factors and triggers?
      6. Therapeutic effects observed with interventions presently under investigation or already in practice?
    3. Can these principles predict new observations at the molecular, cellular, and systems levels and thereby provide opportunities for the refinement and validation of these principles through new experimentations?
    4. What research tools need to be developed or applied in order to further refine and validate these principles?
    5. Do these principles provide clues for the future development of diagnostic approaches and clinical interventions?

Work groups B1 and B2 address questions 2-3 (Clinical Science)

  1. What therapeutic approaches and parameters (e.g., intensity, frequency, duration) can we use to affect plasticity in order to restore function within the following domains?
    1. Motor
    2. Sensory
    3. Cognition
    4. Pain
  2. What research, diagnostic, or therapeutic tools need to be developed or applied to plasticity in order to make substantial clinical progress with respect to impairment, activities limitations, societal participation, and quality of life?

Work groups C1 and C2 address questions 4-6 (Translational Science)

  1. What are the approaches that will facilitate and expedite the translation of plasticity research into clinical practice?
    1. Scientific and policy barriers and solutions
    2. The role of high-risk, high-gain research mechanisms
    3. Research that optimizes intervention efficacy and effectiveness
    4. Comparative effectiveness research
  2. What innovative training and other workforce development activities should be pursued in order to promote research in plasticity and application of new knowledge to clinical needs?
  3. How can we disseminate new therapies: health services and implementation research?

3:30 p.m.


3:45 p.m.

Work Group Sessions Continue 

5:30 p.m.


6:15 p.m.


7:15 p.m.

Work Groups Develop Presentations of Recommendations

8:15 p.m.


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7:30 a.m.


8:00 a.m.

Review of Agenda
Pamela Duncan, Ph.D., P.T., FAPTA, FAHA
Professor and Bette Busch Maniscalco Research Fellow
Division of Doctor of Physical Therapy
Department of Community and Family Medicine
Senior Fellow
Duke Center for Aging
Duke University Medical Center

8:15 a.m.

Work Group Recommendations

  • Basic Science
    • Work group A1 (15 minutes)
    • Work group A2 (15 minutes)
    • Discussion (30 minutes)
  • Clinical Science
    • Work group B1 (15 minutes)
    • Work group B2 (15 minutes)
    • Discussion (30 minutes)

10:20 a.m.


10:35 a.m.

Work Group Recommendations Continue

  • Translational Science
    • Work group C1 (15 minutes)
    • Work group C2 (15 minutes)
    • Discussion (30 minutes)

11:40 a.m.

Closing Statements
Pamela Duncan, Ph.D., P.T., FAPTA, FAHA

11:55 a.m.


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Last Reviewed: 03/15/2011