Crashed Car (left), medical imaging of spine (right)
Yoganandan Laboratory

About the Yoganandan Laboratory

The Yoganandan Laboratory conducts transformational research studies in the field of biomechanics and neuroscience. Ongoing research utilizes computer and statistical models to develop personalized medicine for spinal disorders, develop response corridors and injury risk functions for the head and spine, and determine human head-spine responses under physiologic and traumatic loads. 

Engineers working helmet test in Yoganandan Lab

Research Areas

Personalized Medicine for Cervical Spine Degeneration and Deformity Surgery

The Yoganandan Laboratory uses head-to-spine models to study the effectiveness of different surgical procedures. Head-to-spine studies include classical anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) and cervical disc arthroplasty (CDA). This research examines the role of CDA and ACDF on indexical and adjacent levels for clinical metrics, such as range of motion, and biomedical metrics, such as disc and facet load sharing. Areas of focus include heterotopic ossification, an unintended consequence of CDA, and accelerated adjacent-segment degeneration, which may lead to additional surgeries. Both single and contiguous two-level and hybrid options are being evaluated under physiological and traumatic forces. Our gender-specific computer finite element models of the head and neck with musculature can be morphed to mimic each patient’s anatomy. This allows us to depict the disorder/abnormal situation using MRI, elucidate different surgical options (CDAs and ACDFs), and simulate long-term spinal changes. These multimodal personalized medicine models can be used for patient education, and patient-specific models serve as another surgical decision-making tool for optimum selection and treatment of patients with cervical spine disc diseases such as degenerative spondylotic myelopathy (DCM).


This work is part of a CDMRP study funded by the US Department of Defense. 

Representative Publications


Finite element model of intact spine, coronal view (top left); finite element model of spine with implantation of Bryan implant, Prestige-LP implant, Mobi-C implant, Secure-C implant (top center left to far right); finite element model of Bryan implant, Prestige-LP implant, Mobi-C implant and Secure-C implant (bottom left to right). 

Whole and segmented model of lumbar spine with implants, including ALIF, PLIF and TLIF

Personalized Medicine for Lumbar Spine Degeneration and Deformity Surgery

Following the concept of the head-neck study, a series of morphable lumbar spine-pelvis finite element models is being developed to study degenerative diseases and surgical options for the low back. Procedures such as anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF), posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF), transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF), oblique lateral interbody fusion (OLIF), and eXtreme lumbar interbody fusion (XLIF) with physiological biomechanical loads on each patient are simulated using finite element models. As above, this study is examining the role of different types of procedures on index and adjacent levels for clinical outcomes. Our computer models are morphable to mimic each patient’s anatomy depicting the abnormal/diseased spine using routine medical imaging (MRI), simulate models with different surgical options, and simulate long-term spinal changes. These personalized medicine models are useful for patient education and act as a surgical decision-making tool for optimum treatment of patients with lumbar spine disease. 


This model is being used in the cited CDMRP grant for determining human tolerance to injury from events such as underbody blast and the role of body armor on spinal loading.

Representative Publications


Intact lumbosacral spinal column (left) and models with different surgical options, including ALIF, PLIF and TLIF (right, top to bottom)

Biomedical Models and Neurotrauma

The Yoganandan Laboratory is collaborating with other investigators in the Zablocki VA Medical Center Laboratories on a series of studies delineating injury mechanisms and determining human tolerances. These studies are aimed at improving safety in real-world traumatic events, developing standardized testing methodologies, and establishing federal standards. They incorporate experimental models using pathological specimens, computerized whole-human body models, computerized regional models for areas such as head and spine, statistical risk analysis models, and field database analyses. Currently funded studies are focused on lumbar spine-pelvis injuries from vertical loading for automotive, military, aviation, and other applications.


 This project is part of a series of studies on head and spine (and other body regions) for the US Department of Transporation (DOT), US Department of Defense (DOD), and others. 

Representative Publications


Top image:  Top row shows Coronal CT scan pre-test (left), coronal CT scan post-test showing injuries at the upper lumbar vertebrae (middle), and post-test photograph of the specimen in the coronal plane showing injuries, although to a less demonstrable extent, at the inferior level (right). Bottom row shows pre-test sagittal CT scan (left), post-test sagittal CT (middle), and post-test photograph of the specimen in the sagittal plane (right). Comparison demonstrates that CT images are more effective in showing the pathology in both planes.  

Bottom image:  Survival analysis-based injury risk curve with ±95% confidence intervals (dashed line) for lumbar spine fracture under axial loading.

computational-modeling-image card

Shared Facilities at ZVAMC Labs 

Located on the Zablocki VA Medical Center Campus, the Yoganandan Laboratory enjoys the use of shared facilities specifically designed to support investigations into tissue and spine biomechanics, as well as related computational modeling and statistical validation. 


Led by Dr. Narayan Yoganandan, the Yoganandan Lab works closely with internal collaborators from the Medical College of Wisconsin and shared engineering and research staff of the Zablocki VA Medical Center Laboratories. Meet just a few of these key individuals below.


Narayan Yoganandan, PhD

Professor & Chair of Biomechanics, Department of Neurosurgery; Orthopaedic Surgery; Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering


Matthew D. Budde, PhD

Associate Professor


Frank A. Pintar, PhD

Founding Chair, Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering; Professor, Neurosurgery


Brian D. Stemper, PhD

Professor, Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering; Neurosurgery


Aditya Vedantam, MD

Assistant Professor; Adjunct Faculty in Biomedical Engineering, Radiology, and Orthopedics


Justine Bales

Lab Supervisor


Alok Shah

Engineer IV

Recent Publications

Graduate Student in ZVAMC Laboratory

Educational Opportunities in Biomedical Engineering

The Yoganandan Laboratory has been directing research and educational activities for residents, fellows, and graduate students of neuroscience and biomedical engineering for over 35 years. In addition to working on funded federal grants from organizations such as the DOT, DOD, NIH, CDC, VA, NASA, and FAA, students are invited to participate in a number of other studies ongoing in the ZVAMC Labs. These research projects routinely produce abstracts to conferences such as Spine Summit, CNS, CSRS, NASS, Neurotrauma, and others. Peer-reviewed papers are also common, and this lab has long history of co-authored publications, including over 18 journal papers on biomechanics in 2021 alone. Individuals educated in the Yoganandan Lab demonstrate excellence in their careers, with a recent PhD Candidate receiving MCW's Best Doctoral Dissertation award and many graduates occupying positions of national eminence in the neurosurgery community.

Get Involved

Graduate Education

Researchers seeking Graduate-level opportunities at the cross-section of Trauma Biomechanics and Neuroscience are invited to explore opportunities in the Marquette-MCW Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering, as well as the Neuroscience Doctoral Program at the Medical College of Wisconsin. 

Biomedical Engineering Graduate Studies

Neuroscience Doctoral Program

Student Research

Undergraduate and high school students interested in gaining research experience in neuroscience and biomedical engineering labs are invited to explore undergraduate research opportunities supported by the Zablocki VA Medical Center Laboratories. 

ZVAMC Educational Opportunities



General Inquiries

For general inquiries or to learn more about employment or ongoing research, please contact ZVAMC Labs Project Coordinator, Christy Stadig.  

Contact Christy Stadig