Research presents cerebral palsy research updates, funding and funding opportunities, as well as new publications and the information offered within them, to keep the cerebral palsy community informed. Learn how you can be a part of the conversations by joining MyCP, an interactive cerebral palsy community forum, today!

Surgeons in blue gowns and wearing loupes perform surgery.

New CP Research Network Publication on Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR)

A neurosurgeon with a full beard, glasses, brown hair and eyes grins in a white lab coast for El Paso Children's Hospital

Dr. Ziyad Makoshi, first author of this publication, completed his neurosurgical fellowship while working with CP Research Network Dr. Jeffrey Leonard at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

The Cerebral Palsy (CP) Research Network congratulates investigator Ziyad Makoshi, MD and his co-authors[*], for the publication of his CP Research Network manuscript entitled “A Mixed-Methods Study of Practice Variation in Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy: A Study by the Cerebral Palsy Research Network.” The publication, released online in the journal Pediatric Neurology in September 2023, investigates provider perception about SDR candidates against the characteristics of those undergoing SDR in the CP Research Network clinical registry.

Selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) is an established procedure for the treatment of spasticity associated with cerebral palsy (CP). There is variation in the patient characteristics, e.g., age, motor function, and co-morbidities, deemed most suitable for the surgery. With the indications (valid reasons for using the procedure) expanding, and sometimes conflicting research results, the study team aimed to investigate provider perceptions about SDR candidates through structured interviews compared with the quantitative results of characteristics of those individuals undergoing SDR in the CP Research Network registry.

The results of the study indicate that most CP Research Network registry participants who receive SDR are 8-12 years and typically function at Gross Motor Functional Classification Level (GMFCS) level II or III while a third of individuals receiving SDR are non-ambulatory (not able to walk, i.e., GMFCS Levels IV and V). When surveyed, providers across the range of clinical disciplines that refer children SDR, varied on what the youngest age for SDR should be but agreed on the most likely GMFCS level for SDR and dystonia screening methods. There was not good agreement providers on whether individuals with CP and dystonia should receive an SDR.

The decision to pursue SDR surgery should be made as a team that includes the caregiver and the individual with CP (whenever possible). With differences in the approach to determining the best candidates for SDR and the differences in technique, age and patient characteristics, discussions with families should acknowledge these variations and allow families to reach a decision based on individual concerns, caregiver and/or patient goals, and expectations of outcomes.

Both the registry and the qualitative study of SDR were inspired by our co-founder’s experience with recommendations for his son with CP. Either an extensive orthopedic intervention or an SDR were recommended for improvement of his gait in 2012. Comparative evidence was lacking and most studies of SDR had been done with strict inclusion criteria about patient characteristics. The registry and the qualitative studies were developed by CP Research Network CEO Gross as building blocks to a much larger observational study of SDR for which the network is currently seeking funding. This mixed method analysis provided important preliminary data for that grant application to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke earlier this year. The study team expects to get a funding decision for that study in Q1 2024.

The full journal article is available for free download for the next 45 days in Pediatric Neurology. After December 16, 2023, only subscribers to Pediatric Neurology will have access.


*Jeffrey Raskin, MD, Robert Bollo, MD, Brandon Rocque, MD, Susan Zickmund, PhD, Patrick Galyean, BS, Grace Perry, BA, Samuel Browd, MD, Paul Gross, BA, Kristie Bjornson, PT, PhD and Jeffrey Leonard, MD

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Priorities in Adult Cerebral Palsy Research

Professional headshots of four investigators smiling for a cerebral palsy adult study.The Cerebral Palsy Research Network, in partnership with Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation (CPARF), has awarded its first Accelerator Award, a new internal funding program supported by CPARF to advance critical research questions more quickly. This particular award will be used to prioritize research questions about adults with cerebral palsy (CP). The study, entitled “Priority Setting for Multi-center Research Among Adults with CP” will be conducted by leading investigators focused on adult research – Cristina Sarmiento, MD, (principal investigator), Ed Hurvitz, MD and Mary Gannotti, PT, PhD (consultants) in partnership with Jocelyn Cohen, a community member co-investigator. The study team will lead a series of focus groups around the country to gather input from the community about which health concerns are most pressing to them. This study will build upon the original patient-centered research agenda created through the Research CP program.

The main objectives of this award are to develop a community prioritized set of questions to research through a multi-center clinical trial. The priority setting process will use qualitative methods (a process to find common themes in transcribed answers from focus group participants). Participating community members will be drawn from the CP Research Network’s MyCP community engagement platform and from the CPARF community. They will be involved in every stage of the research process and will have the opportunity to be co-investigators for the study that follows.

Our December webinar will feature the investigative team for this grant. They will provide a more in-depth overview of the planned research and how community members may become involved. This will be a separate webinar from this evening’s webinar on pain classification though it will feature some of the same speakers. Subscribers to our MyCP webinar series will receive an email with the webinar instructions when it is announced in December.

A blog banner features speakers Lisa Letzkus and Zach Vesoulis in white lab coats smiling.

Early Detection of CP Webinar

Dr. Vesoulis in a white lab coast, short wavy hair and a red tie smiles for his professional headshot.

Dr. Vesoulis will be co-leading the webinar on Early Detection of Cerebral Palsy.

Dr. Letzkus with blond hair and dark blouse covered by a white lab coat smiles for her professional headshot.

Dr. Letzkus, a nurse scientist and nurse practitioner, will co-lead the webinar on Early Detection of Cerebral Palsy.

The Cerebral Palsy Research Network plans to add early detection of cerebral palsy (CP) to its national registry to accelerate the pace of research in early intervention (EI) for children with CP. Early intervention holds the promise to improve outcomes for children with CP. CP Research Network Co-Principal Investigators Lisa Letzkus, PhD, RN, CPNP-AC and Zachary Vesoulis, MD, MSCI will present the study design to the community in a webinar next Thursday, September 21, at 8 pm ET. This free MyCP webinar is open for anyone who registers from the CP community or the clinical care community and will be recorded.

Dr. Letzkus is a nurse practitioner and nurse scientist that leads the early detection program at UVA Health in Charlottesville VA and Dr. Vesoulis is neonatologist and NIH funded researcher at Washington University in St. Louis. The two will present our planned research project, its goals and how it may impact outcomes in CP. They will both be available for questions and answers following the presentation.

The CP Research Network clinical registry has recently exceeded 8,000 patients from sites across its network and continues to grow. Patients are enrolled in the registry when they have a clinic visit or an intervention related to CP. Because the network was founded before the early detection guidelines had been created, most of those patients are enrolled at age two or later. The opportunity to begin enrolling patients as early as 12 weeks at our sites that follow the early detection guidelines would be a tremendous benefit to researchers who seek to test early interventions to improve outcomes for children with CP. And because our registry is longitudinal, we will be able to follow children as the progress through milestones and see how early diagnosis and intervention impacts the lives of children with CP. Please join us to learn about this exciting research initiative.

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Dr. Joyce Trost Hired As Director of CP Registries

A woman smiling broadly with long blond hair, dark round glasses and a multi-color blouse.The Cerebral Palsy Research Network hired Joyce Trost, PT, PhD into the role of Registries Director. Dr. Trost has 32 years of clinical, research and administration experience with an expertise in gait and motion analysis serving as the Director of Research for 15 years at Gillette Children’s. She will be responsible for managing the growth, quality and research output of the CP Research Network’s two cerebral palsy registries. Our clinical registry captures data about patients seen at CP Research Network clinical sites and our community registry captures data about the lived experience with CP outside of a hospital setting. Dr. Trost started with the network on August 21, 2023.

“We are honored to have attracted such a talented and experienced CP researcher to our team,” said Paul Gross, President and CEO of the CP Research Network. “Dr. Trost brings a depth of additional skills to the role that we envisioned for our registries that will further strengthen our network.”

Dr. Trost began her career as a physical therapist and eventually went on to get a PhD in Rehabilitation Science. As the Director of Research at Gillette, she established, directed, and drove the strategy for Pain, Spine, Orthopedics, Rehabilitation, Neuroscience, Motion Analysis, and Health Services Research programs led by MD/PhD dyads. She developed a portfolio of funding that included industry, grant and philanthropy, cultivated relationships with many different collaborators, and prioritized scientific rigor and systematic data collection processes.
In conjunction with team members, helped design Gillette’s Center for Gait and Motion Analysis database, built Sponsored Project Administration, and revolutionized the organization’s research governance, compliance, and study start-up process while shaping the organization into a research leader in cerebral palsy and pediatric rare diseases.

A passion of hers is involving those with lived experience in the research process. Her interest in physical therapy and exercise’s impact on muscle was sparked as a pre-teen when she had a life altering figure skating accident. Her ongoing research interests are in early intervention and outcomes of exercise and interventions on muscle and function for those with cerebral palsy. In her personal life, she is married, the mom to 4 young adults, and spends free time working on their farm, fishing or out on bike trails with her family.

The American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Develomental Medicine program cover for its 2023 annual meeting

Chicago Bound — AACPDM Annual Meeting

Clinicians and researchers who direct their work toward improving care for individuals with cerebral palsy (CP) will gather in Chicago, Illinois next week for the meeting of the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (AACPDM). The CP Research Network will have a significant presence and will demonstrate its growing impact on the field of CP care through two mini-symposia, one morning session, four free paper presentations and three scientific posters. Network leadership will also be hosting an informational session on the evening of September 11th where clinicians and researchers interested in joining or learning more about how to engage with the CP Research Network.

CP Research Network CEO Paul Gross with facilitate two discussions (mini-symposia) about how the resources from the collaborative network can advance discovery. The first will focus on understanding national and international varied approaches to surgical decision making for selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) which may be affecting outcomes. The panel which includes several CP Research Network investigators, Bhooma Aravamuthan, MD, DPhil, Jeffrey Leonard, MD, Tom Novacheck, MD, Joyce Oleszek, MD, and Brandon Rocque, MD, MS will share data collected at several large tertiary care centers and reflect on the variations in SDR practice across the centers.

The second symposia led by Paul Gross and including network investigator Michael Kruer, MD will highlight how leveraging rich data sets like the one being built through the CP Research Network can accelerate discovery as well as bring along a new generation of young investigators. They will discuss our community and clinical registries, the sources of data available to researchers, and the practical realities of comparing and linking the data to generate new knowledge. They will also touch on how these large data sets have opened opportunities for a new generation of young researchers who are now presenting papers and posters at the meeting including Elizabeth Boyer, PhD, Cristina Sarmiento, MD, Brandon Rocque, MD, Sruthi Thomas, MD, PhD, Shannon Strader, DO, MS, and Bhooma Aravamuthan, MD, DPhil. The morning seminar presentation entitled, Accessing the CP Research Network Registries for Community Research and Secondary Analyses will complement the symposia and will feature Kristie Bjornson, PT, PhD, Mary Gannotti, PT, PhD, Paul Gross and Brandon Rocque. At this seminar, researchers will learn how to apply to access data generated by the CP Research Network and the types and quantity of data available in both the clinical and community registries.

Free papers and posters that can only be accomplished through the power of multi-center studies are being presented including: SDR practice variation analysis by Brandon Rocque, MD, MS, Botulinum toxin practice variation in North America by Sruthi Thomas, MD, PhD, and Multi-center improvement in dystonia detection in people with CP by >Bhooma Aravamuthan, MD, DPhil. By by providing an infrastructure for these multi-centered, rich data analyses the CP Research Network will speed up research discovery and impact clinical care in the near future.

Our community registry is fosters unique research that includes the patient’s voice through self reported experience. It has also given several young researchers the opportunity to grow their careers including: Consequences of Falls by Elizabeth Boyer, PhD, Adult Cerebral Palsy Patient-Reported Outcomes from a Community Registry: Follow-Up Report on the Impact of Gross Motor Function and Age on Functional Decline by Cristina Sarmiento, MD, Adult Cerebral Palsy Patient-Reported Outcomes from a Community Registry: Follow-Up Report on the Chronic Pain Findings, Cristina Sarmiento, MD, and CP Sensory study by Bhooma Aravamuthan, MD, DPhil. The opportunity to gain the lived experience voice with many individuals with CP is a true value to investigators who do not otherwise have the vast connections of the CP Research Network.

The informational session is an open house style opportunity for individuals unfamiliar with the CP Research Network who want to ask questions about how the learning health network can be leveraged for research and improving quality care of people with CP. There will be opportunity to interact with CP Research Network leadership including Paul Gross, Founder and CEO, Michele Shusterman, Founder and Education Director, Kristie Bjornson, PT, PhD, Scientific Director,and Joyce Trost, PT PhD the new Registries Director. Several site investigators will be there as well including Sruthi Thomas, MD, PhD of Texas Children’s Hospital and Brandon Rocque, MD, MS from Children’s Alabama. You can learn more about what makes the CP Research Network unique, the benefits of membership, and about the full-service data coordinating center which includes statistical support for network related projects. You can ask about membership fees and how they support enhanced knowledge sharing, quality of care projects for benchmarking, collaborative research and professional development with your peers.

We look forward to connecting with you in Chicago!

Make a Difference: Join Our STEPtember Fundraising Team

A blue tile with exercise icons in the background and text to emphasize there are more than 80 ways to move.We invite you to join us to make a difference in cerebral palsy (CP) by helping to raise funds for CP research through STEPtember. STEPtember is an activity-based peer-to-peer fundraiser that happens throughout the month of September. Donations support us through our strategic partnership with Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation (CPARF) as they are the leading private funder of CP research in the United States. Participating in STEPtember has multiple benefits:

  • You will advance research for CP,
  • You will raise awareness about CP,
  • You will stay active and be able track your progress.*

We have created a CP Research Network team for STEPtember. You may join our team as an individual or form your own team under the CP Research Network team (you will see these options on our join page). STEPtember comes with an iPhone app to help you monitor and share your activity on social media or with other team members. And while the name includes “step”, you get step credit for any activity including biking, rolling, swimming and lots of other forms of activity and exercise. It’s a great way to enhance your fitness and have challenging fun with friends, family and co-workers.

Registration is now open. Build your team in August and get ready to get more active and start fundraising in September. Get recognized with shirts and jackets for your fundraising achievements! Please join us and help make a difference in CP research!

* We really want to emphasize that even though the name is “STEPtember”, we support more than 80 ways to stay active and transform it into step equivalents to make the opportunity available to people of all abilities.

Dr. Julie Stutzbach smiles with shoulder length brown hair, a dark blazer and a bright red blouse.

Webinar: Adults with Cerebral Palsy and Low Back Pain

A woman with shoulder length brown hair smiles with a brown jack and red shirt.

Dr. Stutzbach will explain the goals of her study of low back pain in adults with cerebral palsy.

The Cerebral Palsy Research Network has initiated a new study to examine the effects of low back pain on quality of life for adults with cerebral palsy (CP). Julie Stutzbach, PT, DPT, PhD, (link) a clinician scientist with extensive experience in neurorehabilitation, clinical trials and qualitative research will present her new study concept to members of the CP community on Wednesday, July 19 at 8 pm ET during our monthly MyCP Webinar Series.

Chronic low back pain is a common problem in adults with CP. It leads to increasing disability and functional decline. Improving pain management strategies is critical to improving quality of life as people with CP age. However, participants’ perspectives on living with low back pain have not been thoroughly examined. This webinar will cover a new study proposal that will use interviews combined with survey data from the adult study in our Community Registry to explore how pain interferes with daily function as well as how adults with CP experience accessing treatment for low back pain.
This study builds on the CP Research Network’s research partnership program that enables investigators outside of the network to conduct studies-based network based on our prior work and research tools. Dr. Stutzbach has partnered with Mary Gannotti, PT, PhD who the principal investigator for the CP Research Network Adult Wellbeing and Pain studies that are available through our Community Registry. Drs Gannotti and Stutzbach will use the Community Registry to enroll participants that have taken our adult pain survey and identified low back pain as an issue in their lives. This new study has been approved by the Regis University Institutional Review Board where Dr. Stutzbach conducts her research.

Community members interested in this MyCP webinar must register. Dr. Stutzbach will be available for Q&A directly following the presentation. A recording of the presentation and discussion will be posted on our website and our YouTube channel within 24 hours.

Low Back Pain in Adults with CP
A small breakout group of clinicians gathers around a table to advance CP research

Inside the CP Research Network Annual meeting

Clinicians sit classroom style for a keynote lecture in front of a large screen.

The keynote on “Efficiences in Clinical Trial Design” was delivered by Dr. Stephen Wisniewski.

Earlier this month, the Cerebral Palsy Research Network held its annual investigators’ meeting in Wilmington, Delaware. It was graciously hosted by AI duPont/Nemours Children’s Hospital. This annual face-to-face meeting is critical to advancing our Research CP agenda, connecting investigators with community members and funders, and re-energizing our research community to answer the questions that our community values most. This month’s MyCP webinar will be on Tuesday, May 30, at 8 pm ET and share an inside view of our annual meeting from the perspective of community participants.

Community members Jocelyn Cohen, Gina Rolle, and Nina Miller all attended the annual meeting and will participate in the webinar to share their perspectives on the meeting and the work of the network. At the wrap up, Ms. Cohen expressed her feelings about the meeting to us. “I want all the clinicians here to know that I’m grateful for the work you’re doing, for your openness toward collaboration, and for your willingness to have these conversations, said Ms. Cohen. “I’m excited to connect with you professionally and personally.” Ms. Cohen attended the meeting in a dual role as she is both an adult with CP and the Vice President of Communications and Engagement with our strategic partner Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation.

Paul Gross, President, CEO and Co-founder of the CP Research Network will give an overview of the meeting and how the agenda relates to the network’s strategic plan. Mr. Gross will be followed by Kristie Bjornson, PT, PhD, the Scientific Director, who will give an overview of the registry and the research discussed at the meeting. Our panel of participants will then share their experiences and learning from the meeting.

The annual meeting had 50 attendees in total including researchers from every discipline that treats people with CP including developmental pediatrics, gastroenterology, internal medicine, neurology, neurosurgery, occupational therapy, pediatrics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and physical therapy. Research funders in attendance included a representative from the National Institutes of Health, the CP Foundation, Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation and United Cerebral Palsy. Attendees participated in general sessions about our registries and efficiencies in clinical trial design as well as numerous small group working sessions on topics including adult care, complex CP, dystonia treatments, genetics, grip strength, imaging, nutrition and growth, selective dorsal rhizotomy, and surgical decision making. The social highlight of the meeting was dinner hosted by Dr. Wade Shrader and his wife Carol at their lovely home in Wilmington.

Next Wednesday’s webinar will be unique in our series as it brings our research efforts to the community through the eyes of fellow community members. Please join us by registering in advance. Webinar Series subscribers will receive a link to the webinar in email prior to the event. As usual, the webinar will be recorded and posted to our YouTube channel within 24 hours of its airing.

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Accelerator Award: Partnership Strengthens CP Research

The CP Research Network and CPARF logos side by side to indicate our new strategic partnership.The Cerebral Palsy Research Network announces a new research award opportunity called “Accelerator Awards” made possible through the network’s partnership with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation (CPARF). Accelerator awards are up to $25,000 and are meant to rapidly advance research in the network. These awards will be made to investigators in the CP Research Network who put forth new study proposals and registry analyses that enhance the generation of new knowledge for the care and treatment of people with CP. The award process will be managed by Dr. Kristie Bjornson, the network’s Scientific Director who has a long track record in research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“We reviewed all the funding mechanisms available to CP focused investigators and established a process that will really streamline the timeline for decision making and investigator feedback,” said Dr. Bjornson. “This award mechanism is a significant milestone for the CP Research Network because it provides the necessary funding to leverage our CP Registries for large public grant applications to answer key questions developed by the community of persons with CP. It is intended to secure time and resources that might not otherwise be available.”

The Accelerator Awards extend additional benefits to sites and investigators that join the CP Research Network. The network offers professional development opportunities, collaborative research partnerships, participation in quality improvement initiatives, implementation of care pathways and powerful research infrastructure hosted at its Data Coordinating Center at the University of Pittsburgh. Nonmembers can learn how to join the network or partner with existing members from our webinar on this topic.

The CP Research Network began taking applications from its site investigators as of May 1, 2023. Grant applications may be submitted on a rolling basis and may be approved in as little four weeks. This rollout aligns well with our annual investigators’ meeting at Nemours/AI duPont earlier this month, where 50 people, including network site investigators, community members, an NIH program officer, and members of leading advocacy groups, gathered to advance study concepts being developed within the network.

The American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Develomental Medicine program cover for its 2023 annual meeting

Our Impact Grows: Sharing Our Findings

The program cover the annual meeting of the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine features skyline view of Chicago.

CP Research Network investigators will share our latest findings from our research and quality improvement at the annual meeting of the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine in Chicago this fall.

Providers, families and researchers for children with cerebral palsy (CP) will meet in Chicago, Illinois on September 10-13th for the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine’s (AACPDM) annual meeting. This in-person meeting will bring together participants from around the world. The CP Research Network will demonstrate is growing impact on the field of CP care and research by sharing its findings in two mini-symposia, one morning session, four free paper presentations and three scientific posters. All these efforts are aimed at improving outcomes for people with CP through the implementation of evidence-based information and practices. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to share the results of our research, and to provide information about how the CP Research Network can be a catalyst for CP research.

The mini symposia will be two hours in total length including discussion.
Topics include:

  • Common Data Models and Research Data Sources: The practical realities of leveraging rich data sets to accelerate discovery – A multi-disciplinary team of presenters will be led by the CP Research Network CEO Paul Gross and include Michael Kruer, MD. They will discuss the sources of data available to researchers, the mechanism to access them and the practical realities of comparing and linking the data to generate new knowledge. The symposium will include speakers with real-world experience leveraging and linking these types of disparate but related data sources. It is appropriate for researchers focused on clinical and translational research.
  • Understanding the rationale behind practice variation in selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) moderated by Paul Gross, includes presenters from the disciplines that participate in SDR decision making including several CP Research Network investigators including Bhooma Aravamuthan, MD, DPhil, Jeffrey Leonard, MD, Tom Novacheck, MD, Joyce Oleszek, MD, and Brandon Rocque, MD, MS. The panel will discuss varied approaches to surgical decision making for SDR including overviews of national and international practice variation. They will discuss criteria involved in surgical spasticity decision making for SDR across several large tertiary care centers.

The morning seminar presentation is:

  • Accessing the CP Research Network Registries  for Community Research and Secondary Analyses featuring speakers Kristie Bjornson, PT, PhD, Mary Gannotti, PT, PhD, Paul Gross and Brandon Rocque, MD, MS.  These speakers will discuss how researchers can access the data generated by the CP Research Network registries to perform secondary analyses that generate new knowledge about CP from existing data collection.  The speakers will cover the process for applying to access data and the types and quantity of data available in both the clinical and community registries.

Free papers and scientific posters feature a single investigator presenting findings based on research generated from our network. Free papers are eight minute oral presentations given to attendees and posters are displayed a specific times during the conference in which investigators are available to explain their research findings one on one with interested attendees.  In this format, topics and investigators include:

Free papers:

Scientific Posters:

These symposia, morning seminars, scientific posters and free papers all focus on improving care and advance research on the international stage. The broad reach the network’s work is clearly visible at this annual meeting and will attract new clinician researchers into our circle, with potential to widen our eventually impact.