Fernandez-Miranda Awarded Major NIH Grant

Pittsburgh, March 31, 2015 -- The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $1.8 million grant to Juan C. Fernandez-Miranda, MD, associate professor of neurological surgery and director of the department’s Fiber Tractography Lab, in support of his project, Language Connectivity Pathways and Neuroplasticity in Aphasic Stroke Patients.

The award recognizes Dr. Fernandez-Miranda’s leading role in the development and refinement of high-definition fiber tractography (HDFT) and its application to study the intrinsic structure and connectivity of the living human brain, both in normal subjects and neurosurgery/neurology patients.

In the project, Dr. Fernandez-Miranda—along with speech-language pathologist William D. Hula, PhD, of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System—will correlate specific white matter tract disconnections evidenced by HDFT with phonological and semantic deficits aiming to improve our understanding of language related white matter pathways. They will also investigate the fundamental question of neuroplasticity in this stroke population by determining whether targeted intensive behavioral therapy induces structural neuroplastic changes in perilesional and/or contralateral fiber tracts and whether any observed neuroplastic changes are correlated with behavioral improvements and predict the potential for speech recovery.

The five-year award is funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute Of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD) and by the National Institute On Deafness And Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).

For more information on Dr. Fernandez-Miranda’s work and HDFT related projects please visit the Fiber Tractography Lab webpage.

Dr. Fernandez-Miranda is also director of the department’s Surgical Neuroanatomy Lab and associate director of UPMC’s Center for Skull Base Surgery.

HDFT image
Pre- and post-therapy right hemisphere HDFT results.