Watch Dr. Frey's Distingiushed Lecture on YouTube! Nearly a dozen individuals have undergone face transplants, and roughly one hundred amputees have been cured through transplantation of donor hands. These cases provide an unprecedented opportunity to glimpse the promise, and the limitations, of the mature human brain's adaptive potential following extended periods of disuse; insights that may enable us to anticipate the rehabilitation needs of future individuals who will undergo repairs of spinal cord injuries, or receive prosthetics designed to replace lost sensory, motor or cognitive functions. These remarkable medical advances, however, raise challenging ethical issues that we ignore at our own peril.

 "When science fiction becomes medical reality: what former amputees have taught me about the brain."

Current Research Topics in the RNL

  • Effects of limb amputation, replantation and transplantation on sensory, motor and cognitive functions.
  • Effects of congenital limb absence on sensory, motor and cognitive functions.
  • Effects of injuries to the peripheral nervous system on brain mechanisms.
  • The effects of role of brain plasticity on the recovery of function following peripheral nerve injury and repair.
  • Planning and control of reaching and grasping with the hands, tools and prosthetic devices.
  • Brain mechanisms involved in post-amputation pain.

Current Research Techniques

The RNL currently utilizes the following techniques during research:

  • Functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) conducted at the Brain Imaging Center (
  • MRI-guided transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
  • Transcranial Direct Current stimulation (tDCS). 
  • Kinematics tracking of the arms and hands.
  • Neuropsychological studies of individuals with brain or bodily injuries and healthy adults.

Extramural grants in the RNL

Army Medical Research and Materiel Command
Clinical and Rehabilitative Medicine Research Program Reconstructive Transplantation Research Award

Program: Harnessing neuroplasticity to enhance functional recovery in allogeneic hand transplant and heterotopic hand replant recipients
Dates: 09/30/2015 – 09/15/2019
Principal Investigator: Scott H. Frey
This longitudinal project evaluates the efficacy of non-invasive brain stimulation in combination with behavioral therapies in facilitating recovery of function following hand transplantation, replantation and peripheral nerve repair. It is a collaborative with coinvestigators at the Christine Kleinert Institute and Washington University School of Medicine. 



Dr. Frey's Distinguished Lecture, 02/08/2018.