Dena Howland, Ph.D.

Photo of Dena Howland, Ph.D.
  1. Associate Professor, Department of Neurological Surgery


Laboratory of Neural Repair, Plasticity and Functional Recovery


Phone: 502-407-3272; Fax: 502-582-74880
E-mail Dena Howland


Research Focus:

My research focuses on understanding the response of the spinal cord to injury and identifying approaches to enhance repair, plasticity and motor recovery. At the basic science level, we have placed significant effort on the study of the chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan family and an enzyme, chondroitinase abc, which alters their growth inhibitory nature. Our aim is to better understand how this enzyme works, the most effective window(s) for delivery post-spinal cord injury, and if its benefits can be amplified by combining it with other potential therapeutic agents, including training (activity-based rehabilitation). In addition to cellular and molecular assessments to understand changes in protein expression, spinal circuitry and long tracks, we evaluate functional changes using several approaches including 3D kinematic assessment of locomotion. At the clinical research level, our major focus is on enhancing motor recovery using activity-based interventions. This work has been done in collaboration with Dr. Andrea Behrman who also moved from Florida and joined the faculty in the Department of Neurological Surgery. Our current major focus is on the use of Locomotor Training (LT) in young children with severe, chronic spinal cord injuries who show little to no clinical potential for walking recovery. A small study which we conducted in Florida suggests that 50% of these children may develop walking with this approach. Among our goals are to develop predictive measures to identify those children who have the greatest potential to respond to LT, develop approaches to accelerate the response to LT, and to understand underlying circuitry changes.

    Click to view all of Dr. Howlands's publications on PubMed

    Key Publications:

    Howland DR., Trimble SA, Behrman AL (2012). Neurological Recovery and Restorative Rehabilitation. In MJ Mulcahey, R. Betz, L Vogel, K Zebracki, editors, The Child with a Spinal Cord Injury, 2nd Edition, Mac Keith Press, London, United Kingdom. In Press.

    Reier, P.J., Lane, M.A., Teng, Y.D., Hall, E.D.,  Howland, D.R. (2012)  Translational spinal cord injury research:  Preclinical guidelines and challenges. In: Handbook of Clinical Neurology. Eds:Verhaagen et al., Chapter 30, pp. 109:411-33.  PMID: 23098728.

    Cheng,G, Salehian, H, Vemuri, BC, Hwang,M, Howland, D, Forder, J,  (2011), "Atlas construction from high angular resolution diffusion imaging data represented by Gaussian Mixture fields", Proc IEEE Int Symp Biomed Imaging. Jun 9;2011:549-552.

    Jefferson SC, Tester NJ, Howland DR (2011) Chondroitinase ABC promotes recovery of adaptive limb movements and plasticity of the rubrospinal tract. J Neurosci. Apr 13;31(15):5710-20. PMID: 20043908

    Fox EJ, Tester NJ, Phadke CP, Nair PM, Senesac CR, Howland DR, Behrman AL (2010) Ongoing Walking Recovery 2 Years After Locomotor Training in a Child With Severe Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury. Phys Ther. May;90(5):793-802. PMID: 20299409