NeuroMat initiative to address research and education on brachial plexus injuries

The Research, Innovation and Dissemination Center for Neuromathematics (RIDC NeuroMat) will soon launch a multidisciplinary initiative focusing on brachial plexus injuries, called the NeuroMat Action for the Brachial Plexus Injury, or ABRAÇO. This initiative will become a go-to reference for patients, patients’ relatives, health professionals, researchers and educators who are interested in this kind of injury, that has been in the rise in Brazil, especially associated to an increasing number of motorcycle riders and accidents. Leading figures in this initiative are the NeuroMat scientific director, Antonio Galves, and NeuroMat PI, Claudia Domingues Vargas.

The three areas of activity of the RIDC NeuroMat intersect in the ABRAÇO initiative. Firstly, this project is part of an agenda to model brain functioning. Secondly, the initiative will provide resources that can be used for informing patients and relatives as well as becoming a channel to access computational tools to improve research on the brachial plexus injury —this second aspect relates to NeuroMat’s technology-transfer area. Lastly, ABRAÇO intends to become a go-to reference for education and communication materials on this kind of injury.

The first step in the launching of ABRAÇO, that will scale up an ongoing effort to understand and have an impact on problems associated to the brachial plexus injury, will be to have a specific web page for the initiative. This page will concentrate research, technology-transfer and dissemination resources that the NeuroMat has produced, such as peer-reviewed articles and wide-audience videos. The web page will also have a section for disseminating meetings and lectures organized or attended by NeuroMat members.

In what follows, NeuroMat PI Claudia D. Vargas, professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, provides in the form an interview a context and introduction to ABRAÇO, a NeuroMat initiative for the brachial plexus injury. This activity is associated to the NeuroMat research project by Karolina Bergamo (2017) "Health Communication in Booklets: Practice and Methodological Investigation".

NeuroMat PI Claudia D. Vargas, in 2015. RIDC NeuroMat/Wikimedia Commons

Could you please describe the origin and goals of the ABRAÇO Initiative?

The ABRAÇO initiative was created as a virtual platform within NeuroMat to foster interactions between scientists, patients, their parents and health professionals. The main focus of this initiative is the traumatic lesion of the nerves supplying the arm, also called brachial plexus lesion. Our goal is to serve as a virtual forum to interact at worldwide level with the community interested in this thematic. We expect to produce high quality scientific, technology transfer and dissemination pieces concerning the lesion and its effects in the brain, as well as general guidelines concerning its treatment and rehabilitation.

How does this initiative relate to the general mission that the RIDC NeuroMat pursues?

The general mission of the Center is to develop the new mathematics needed to construct a theory of the brain accounting for the full experimental data gathered by neuroscience research. The ABRAÇO initiative is a platform that shall serve as a forum to fully develop the integration endeavor between scientific production, technology transfer and knowledge dissemination.

The ABRAÇO Initiative is expected to have an impact on the three main areas of activity of the RIDC NeuroMat --research, technology transfer and dissemination. Could you please specify the expected impacts and results on each of these three areas?

We aim to develop experiments that shall allow modeling the brain plasticity after a brachial plexus l lesion. The results will be exposed to debate in the ABRAÇO platform. In the technology transfer front we are developing new experimental set ups to investigate brain plasticity after lesions and new tools to document the lesion through the brachial plexus database. In the dissemination front, in addition to providing information about the brachial plexus injury, we aim to produce folders and videos directed to patients, caregivers and health professionals.

Why is it important to launch the ABRAÇO now?

The traumatic brachial plexus injury appears to have become a major public health concern in Brazil, normally associated to motorcycle accidents. Brachial plexus lesion is a frequent injury associated with these accidents and consequently it has greatly increased in the last 20 years.

What are the main challenges for overcoming the public health concern associated to the traumatic brachia plexus injury? In light of this concern, why do you think an initiative like the one you are leading is important?

From the clinical point of view, the main challenge is to develop and make available tools for early diagnosis and management of this health condition. The ABRAÇO initiative shall act on this front by developing and providing educational tools about the injury as well as the prognosis of the health condition. From the scientific perspective, the mechanisms underlying pain and sensorimotor dysfunction after a brachial plexus lesion are still phenomenological, purely descriptive and thus have a poor predictive level. Within NeuroMat we shall address this issue by developing mathematical models of brain plasticity after brachial plexus injury.

The RIDC NeuroMat has already established an initiative on Parkinson's disease (Amparo). In what ways do ABRAÇO and Amparo relate? How do they differ?

These are pathologies that interfere in the organization of the central nervous system and are therefore scientific challenges. The need for new models of brain reorganization in Neuromathematics is a common point. Contrarily to Parkinson's disease , which has a wider reach at world level and therefore already has half way gone in terms of social relevance, the brachial plexus injury is often a neglected health problem.

Could you please provide a description of the team that is part of this initiative?

The team is composed by Medical doctors, Physical therapists, Statisticians, Probabilists, Information technology scientists, neuroscientists, psychologists. Many of the young team members are also graduate students in the lab.

This piece is part of NeuroMat's Newsletter #37. Read more here

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