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Neurosurgery Research

Our Research Mission

Our mission is to conduct innovative research that:

  • advances the science of neurotrauma and neurologic disease 
  • has a positive translational impact on clinical care 
  • fosters the development of scientists 
  • improves the health of our community

Our Research Vision

Our vision is to be a world-class center for neurotrauma research that positively impacts the lives of people affected by neurologic injury and disease.

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Center for Neurotrauma Research

The Center for Neurotrauma Research seeks to advance the science of neurological trauma and related diseases, enhance the translation of brain and spinal trauma research into clinical care innovations, foster the professional development of future scientists, and improve the health of communities throughout the region and state. Within MCW, the CNTR functions as a collaborative hub for neurotrauma research and will create a synergistic collaboration with other MCW Centers such as the Comprehensive Injury Center, Neuroscience Research Center and the Center for Imaging Research.

MCW's Center for Neurotrauma Research is co-directed by Shekar Kurpad, MD, PhD, Sanford J. Larson Professor and Chair of Neurosurgery; and Michael McCrea, PhD, Professor of Neurosurgery, Eminent Scholar, Vice Chair of Research and Director of Brain Injury Research at the Medical College of Wisconsin. 

Neurosurgery Research Programs

Research from the Department of Neurosurgery includes multimodal investigations into the  generation and treatment of brain injury, biomechanics and spinal cord injury. 

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Brain Injury Research 

Led by Dr. Michael McCrea, the Brain Injury Research Program includes investigations into acute and chronic effects of traumatic brain injury.

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Biomechanics Research

Neurosurgery Biomechanics research is carried out at the ZVAMC Labs and includes investigations into the biomechanics of trauma and biomechanics of the spine. 

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Spinal Cord Injury Research

Investigations into Spinal Cord Injury at ZVAMC Labs seek to improve the recovery and quality of life for patients affected by acute and chronic SCI.   

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Neurosurgical Research Facilities

Biomechanics Laboratories

The Biomechanics Laboratories include an overhead swinging pendulum laboratory capable of speeds up to 12 m/s with mini-sled apparatus on linear precision bearings with 3-m run-out. Materials testing laboratory has one electrohydraulic piston apparatus with a 25 cm stroke and dynamic capabilities, and a second piston with dual motion (rotation and vertical) capabilities for smaller construct evaluations. Six high-intensity lights (4 kW each). Data Acquisition System (TDAS, Diversified Technical Systems, Seal Beach, CA), 128 channels at 12.5 kz/channel sample rate. Both data acquisition systems have pre-amplifiers and antialiasing filters. Vicon motion analysis system with nine high resolution cameras (Vicon Corp., Oxford Metrice, Oxford, England), capable of measuring sub-millimeter motions and angulations. Five Phantom (Vision Research Inc., Wayne, NJ) digital video cameras capable of imaging at 1,000 to 10,000 frames/second. Kodak high-speed video camera system capable of up to 4,500 full frames/second and a high-speed, high-resolution digital video camera capable of 1,000 frames/second data acquisition. Motion Analysis Corp., four-camera, 3-D high-resolution motion tracking system. Hybrid III ATD with force and acceleration transducers. Force, displacement, and acceleration transducers, Kistler 3-axis force plate, Denton 6-axis force transducers, 3-axis motion transducer, Endevco and Entran accelerometers. Heavy-duty cryomicrotome device with electronic control (Leica Inc., Deerfield, IL).

Portable x-ray machine and C-arm x-ray. Pure-moment testing rig capable of applying pure moments to spinal motion segments, cervical spines, or intact head-neck complexes, measuring six axis forces and moments, and three-dimensional kinematics. Vicon motion analysis system with six high resolution cameras (Vicon Corp., Oxford Metrice, Oxford, England), capable of measuring sub-millimeter motions and angulations.

Histology Laboratory

The Histology Laboratory is fully equipped and staffed, capable of all routine techniques, including silver stains, Trichrome stains, paraffin sectioning and cryostat sectioning.

Equipment includes:

  • Leica LaborLux D microscope
  • Cryostat for autoradiography and routine frozen sectioning, rotary microtome, sliding microtome, Autotechnicon tissue embedder, and Buehler diamond saw
  • Nicolet evoked potential monitoring system
  • NYU spinal cord injury impactor device. Two Forma water-jacketed incubators
  • Two isolated SterilGARD hoods (Baker Co. Inc.)
  • Thermo IEC Centra-CLR3 centrifuge
  • High-resolution Nikon dissecting microscope, fiber optic light illuminator source
  • Nikon TE2000 inverted microscope with epi- and fluorescent illumination
  • Nikon E600 upright microscope with epi- and fluorescent illumination, Spot II digital camera system, imaging monitor, and MetaMorph image analysis software
  • Dedicated refrigerator and freezer for storing culture media supplies
  • NYU spinal cord injury impactor device
  • Surgical microscope, (Moller Wedel Inc.)
  • Dell Dimension workstation computer system
  • BioRad I-cycler real-time thermocycler
  • Denver balance, microwave
  • Fisher microcentrifuge
  • pH meter
  • BioRad semi-dry gel transfer apparatus
  • BioRad mini-protein gel electrophoresis tanks with power supplies
  • Owl DNA/RNA electrophoresis tanks
  • Harvard Apparatus blood pressure-monitoring machine
  • Harvard Apparatus pulse oximeter
  • American Optical 2-headed teaching microscope
  • Designated refrigerator/freezer
  • Nanopure Infinity water system
  • Ultraviolet gel-viewing table
  • Eppendorf refrigerated microcentrifuge
  • Hot plates, stirrers, platform shaker, vortexers, glassware, plasticware, incubator oven and water bath
  • Vicon nine-camera, high-speed motion capture system and software for 3D motion analysis
Neurosurgery Research Facility (NRF)

The Neurosurgery Research Facility (NRF) consists of a Seattle Safety designed horizontal acceleration impact sled. The sled has a nominal force of 1.4MN, with a 2000 mm stroke, maximum velocity of 75 kph, and peak acceleration of 80 Gs. The sled is computer controlled from the control room adjacent to the test pad. The input pulse is entered in digital format. Individual crash pulses can be programmed to a high degree of accuracy. The system “learns” from prior tests with the same programmed input, and fine tunes the firing and breaking pressure for the next test. This allows for a greater accuracy in delta-V, acceleration, and pulse width. Prior to firing, a servo-brake holds the sled in position while the pneumatic actuator is charged. With the input pulse loaded, and the actuator fill valves filled, the sled can then be fired. If an abort situation is needed, a “cancel” button in the software, and an emergency stop button on the charge enable box will immediately bleed the firing pressure, disarm the system, and abort the test. The NRF’s test track is also leveled with laser precision, high-intensity lights are used for lighting, and heating/air-conditioning controls the temperature and humidity. Around the sled, there is adequate space for placement of high-speed digital video cameras and a Vicon motion analysis system.

Computer Analysis and Data Server facilities consist of desktop and laptop PC and Macintosh computers throughout the labs. A dedicated and secure 4TB server that is serviced by the MCW IT department is housed in the laboratory that all authenticated users have access to. Storage locations for each project are secured with permissions that allow only registered users that are included on approved project protocols. Data is backed up nightly with long-term data storage off-site. Software includes MatLab computational package with tool boxes, STATA statistical package, ABAQUS (6.3 standard and explicit), Motion Analysis Package Motion Analysis Corp. 2-D system and 3-D software, and ImageExpress.