Sheets Receives Two-Year NIH Grant

Posted: November 7, 2011

Assistant Professor Alison Sheets has received a two-year grant of $419,375 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for the project titled “Quantitative evaluation of 3D mouse behaviors in the open field using markerless motion tracking." Her research will be conducted in collaboration with D. Michele Basso, Professor & Associate Director of the School of Allied Medical Professions at Ohio State.

Searching for breakthroughs in treatments for those who endure debilitating neural and muscular conditions as a result of spinal cord injury (SCI), stroke or contracting degenerative diseases of the central nervous system is the ongoing work of many research scientists. Assistant Professor Sheets’ research is expected to enable breakthroughs in treating these conditions by developing a more sensitive, repeatable, and time efficient method to evaluate motor performance.

To date, most studies use rodent models and have been limited by the methods available to evaluate animal motor function. The study conducted by Sheets and Basso will establish a method to automatically quantify and classify the gross motor movements related to mouse locomotion without placing markers on the animals or requiring hand digitization. This markerless measurement and motor function evaluation technique, which utilizes state-of-the-art 3D volumetric reconstruction, will significantly reduce the time needed to classify SCI severity in groups of mice.

"This research is the first step in our lab’s long term goal of identifying characteristics in human and animal movements that can be used to gain insights into neuromuscular and musculoskeletal health. The markerless motion tracking approach developed and utilized in this study will enable sensitive, repeatable, and time efficient methods for quantifying these movements under the most natural conditions," Sheets said.

While markerless motion tracking algorithms have been primarily developed for humans, this approach will be innovative in quickly identifying different severities of impairments for multiple animals and could eventually lead to breakthroughs in the development of treatments for debilitating conditions such as Parkinson's disease, Huntingtons Disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (commonly known as ALS), and Multiple Sclerosis.

For more information about the NIH, visit

Category: Faculty