Meet Monica Perez, PT, PhD — New Scientific Chair for Arms + Hands Lab

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Meet Monica Perez, PT, PhD — New Scientific Chair for Arms + Hands Lab

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On May 31, Monica Perez, PT, PhD, joined Shirley Ryan AbilityLab as the scientific chair of the Arms + Hands Lab. An internationally recognized leader in spinal cord injury (SCI), Dr. Perez now leads a translational research team that includes current Arms + Hands Lab scientists and Innovation Center clinical chairs to orchestrate the application of the most modern methods for measuring upper-extremity function.

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“Monica brings tremendous research depth to Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and will raise our stature in this field even more,” Richard L. Lieber, PhD, chief scientific officer and senior vice president, said. “Her energy and creativity will no doubt lead to a dramatic increase in the visibility and relevance of our SCI research.”

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Her research is notable for its rigorous scientific underpinnings and for its keen application of basic human neurophysiology, which is used to inform the development of therapeutic interventions. She has developed novel experimental methods for eliciting cortical and spinal cord plasticity in humans with paralysis due to SCI. These mechanistic experiments can probe transmission in cortical and spinal neuronal circuits during different motor behaviors. Increased understanding of these circuits will support the development of targeted neurorehabilitation in patients with SCI, as well as in other patient populations.

A member of grant-review study sections for both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Dr. Perez’s work has been funded by the NIH continuously since 2007 and the VA continuously since 2013. She is active in the neuroscience community as editor of the prestigious Journal of Neurophysiology. She has published work on motor control in high-impact, peer-reviewed journals, including Brain, Cerebral Cortex, Current Biology, Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Physiology and Journal of Neurophysiology. In 2017, the American Society of Neurorehabilitation honored Dr. Perez as its Outstanding Neurorehabilitation Clinician Scientist.

Dr. Perez was previously a professor in the department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Miami’s Project to Cure Paralysis and a research health scientist with the VA. Earlier in her career, she worked in the University of Pittsburgh’s department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Dr. Perez received a BS in physical therapy from Catholic University in Chile and a PhD in physical therapy from the University of Miami. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, where she studied transmission in human spinal cord pathways during different motor behaviors. She then completed a second postdoctoral fellowship in the Human Cortical Physiology and Stroke Neurorehabilitation Section at the National Institutes of Health.

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