Dr. Michael LaFountaine
VA RR&D National Center of Excellence
for the Medical Consequences of Spinal Cord Injury
Jame J. Peters VAMC, Bronx, New York
(718) 584-9000 x3121
Dr. LaFountaine received his Bachelor of Science degree in Athletic Training from Alfred University (Alfred, NY) in 2001, and is a Certified Athletic Trainer (National Athletic Trainer’s Association Board of Certification). While studying for this degree and credentialing, he developed an appreciation for how injuries and trauma could significantly impair normal function and mobility. With appropriate intervention and management, progress towards healing and the restoration of function could be facilitated in a timelier manner and outcomes could be improved. Thus, his fascination with physiological processes and pharmacological interventions was formed. While he was a graduate student at Columbia University working toward his Master’s Degree (Master of Arts, 2003; Master of Education, 2005), he was able to engage in the clinical evaluation of patients undergoing pre-surgical cardiac stress testing using treadmill or pharmacological protocols, and later worked in a skilled nursing facility developing and implementing rehabilitation and wellness programs for infirmed patients who were deemed to have reached their functional capacity, but desired to have supervised interventions to maintain function. It was this setting that introduced Dr. LaFountaine to clinical and rehabilitation needs in persons with spinal cord injury and the types of research that could be formed, an area that formed the basis of his Doctoral work at Columbia University (Doctor of Education, 2008). In 2005, he joined the Spinal Cord Damage Research Center as a Research Coordinator and has progressed to a funded principal investigator in the Endocrine program.
In addition to maintaining an active line of research in spinal cord injury, Dr. LaFountaine is a professor of physiology and pharmacology in the School of Health and Medical Sciences at Seton Hall University (South Orange, NJ). In this role, he mentors graduate and doctoral students in their respective research pursuits and has active lines of research in the neuroendocrine consequences of sports concussion. Dr. LaFountaine was awarded the 2013 New Investigator Award by the American College of Sports Medicine.
Project goals (Lay)
The autonomic nervous system controls functions in the body that are beyond our conscious control. By precisely measuring how the autonomic, or “silent,” nervous system controls different organ systems, information is obtained that may be used to quantitate improvement or decline in health due to disease or advancing age. The challenge is to find appropriate technologies to measure this change in function. The use of appropriate technology and medications allow us to describe the bodily processes that are adversely affected by disease, as well as in the evaluation of the effectiveness of any specific intervention in an attempt to improve health.
Project goals (Scientific)
Identifying and applying outcome measurements that appropriately quantify autonomic nervous system control of the cardiovascular system are a primary focus of my research. Contemporary investigations of cardiovascular autonomic control have evolved from time and frequency domain-based analyses of digital electrocardiogram signals to more complex algorithms that couple other physiological signals which provide a more appropriate reflection of a system’s response to variable conditions. When these techniques are applied to patient cohorts with transient (i.e., concussion) or fixed (i.e., spinal cord injury) neurological injury, a unique perspective is gained on the severity of neurological injury, the integrity of residual neurological function, or the state of resolution to “normal” may be gleaned. Thus, with appropriate investigation, autonomic nervous system regulation of end-organs may be evaluated to provide objective detail across the spectrum of health and disease.