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NIH Record

Weinrich Named New NCMRR Director

By Christina Stile

Neurologist Dr. Michael Weinrich recently joined the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research as its new director. The NCMRR, part of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, emphasizes the rehabilitation and life-long care of people with physical disabilities resulting from injury, disease or disorder. Weinrich is an expert in clinical rehabilitation and a pioneer in computer-assisted rehabilitation.

He is known for making advances in computer-assisted rehabilitation. He developed the computerized visual communication (C-VIC) program to treat patients with aphasia, an inability to speak or understand language. This condition is associated with brain damage from stroke or head trauma and affects nearly 80,000 Americans every year. C-VIC allows patients to rebuild their language skills by selecting and arranging pictures and short phrases on a computer. Patients who use C-VIC have shown "impressive improvement" in their communication abilities. "It's important to build on our successes and to further develop rehabilitation technology," said Weinrich. "One of the goals of NCMRR is to maximize peoples' abilities to function in their homes, workplaces and communities."

Dr. Michael Weinrich

In addition to C-VIC, Weinrich has studied different ways of simulating brain function. Specifically, he used neural net modeling to identify the brain's response to focal injuries, or injuries limited in area. By modeling the effects of focal injuries, he can explore how the brain responds to small strokes, in contrast to its response to major strokes or more distributed brain injury. Such modeling might help doctors predict how effective different treatments will be.

While he appreciates the advances made possible by technology, Weinrich also knows the importance of research.

"Investigator-initiated research is the bedrock of the NIH research program," he said. "The major role for the NCMRR is to guide this research by focusing attention on issues that need more investigation. The center seeks to fund excellent science to improve the health and well being of individuals with disabilities."

Weinrich also hopes to improve treatment for patients whose conditions require life-long or high-cost care. He has formed successful relationships with many consumer and advocacy groups through his work in this area.

Before coming to NCMRR, Weinrich was a professor of neurology at the University of Maryland Medical School and acting chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Baltimore Veterans Administration Hospital. He also served as medical director of Montebello Rehabilitation Hospital and medical director for rehabilitation at Kernan Hospital, both in Baltimore.

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