Cerebral Palsy and Spasticity Center | Research

At Boston Children’s Hospital, we are known for pioneering some of the most effective surgeries, diagnostic procedures and other essential techniques for treating diseases, including cerebral palsy. A significant part of our success comes from our commitment to research, innovation and clinical trials.

Ongoing Cerebral Palsy Investigations at Boston Children’s

  • In-shoe device to aid walking: Boston Children's and the Motional Analysis Lab at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital are investigating an innovative in-shoe device that can help monitor toe-walking, which can increase a child’s risk of falling.
  • PEDI-CAT: Boston Children's researchers are validating the PEDI-CAT for children and adolescents with CP. The PEDI-CAT is an outcome tool, which uses artificial intelligence to measure the impact and improvement of function on daily performance before and after surgical and non-surgical interventions.
  • Early Intervention research: Read about psychologist Gene Goldfield’s vision for robotic clothing on the Boston Children’s Vector Blog.
  • CPNEXT Natural History Study: Currently enrolling subjects, the Clinical Program Neuromuscular Excellence and Teamwork (CPNEXT) study tracks the function, pain and quality of life outcomes for children and teenagers with cerebral palsy to better understand how interventions impact outcomes over time.

Neurology and Neurobiology Basic Science and Translational Laboratories

Cerebral Palsy has many causes including genetic, brain injury from trauma or infection, congenital problems such as cardiac malformations and hydrocephalus, in utero stroke, prematurity and related disorders that cause epilepsy. Also, children with related disorders that affect the nerves and muscles sometimes have medical and surgical needs that overlap with the needs of children with cerebral palsy, such as spinal muscular atrophy, muscular dystrophy and spina bifida. In many cases, our specialists are not only the leaders in providing clinical care, but also they conduct cutting-edge basic, translation and clinical research.

Genetic Research

Cerebral Palsy can be caused by mutations or other alterations in genes or chromosomes. Your neurologist will discuss with you whether this type of special testing is indicated for your child. In some instances, your neurologist may suggest an evaluation by the Brain Development and Genetics Program or the Neurogenetics Program where experts in brain development use the latest laboratory and imaging techniques to identify and manage problems due to genetic abnormalities. These experts not only care for children, but also are on the forefront of laboratory research to develop new insights and treatments in our FM Kirby Neurobiology Center and Translational Neuroscience Center.

Brain Development and Brain Injury Research

Cerebral palsy may be caused by problems with brain development before, during or after birth, such as prematurity, inflammation from infection or a lack of adequate blood flow or oxygen supply. Clinician-scientists and neuroscientists in our F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center and Translational Neuroscience Center are working diligently to understand how problems around the time of birth affect brain development and lead to cerebral palsy and related issues such as learning difficulties, behavioral problems, hearing and vision impairment and epilepsy. They are also discovering new treatments to decrease the impact problems around the time of birth can have on brain development.

Infants and toddlers who experience traumatic brain injury or related events may develop cerebral palsy, and rarely children with cerebral palsy suffer a second brain injury. Our team in the Brain Injury Center works closely with the cerebral palsy team to address your child’s unique needs. In addition to caring for children who suffer brain injury, our team conducts basic, translational and clinical research to understand how the infant brain responds to brain injury, and how we can optimize treatment for children with brain injury.

Recurrent Seizures Research

Some children with cerebral palsy also have epilepsy (recurrent seizures) that is difficult to control with medications. Your child’s neurologist will discuss with you whether your child would benefit from an evaluation by a pediatric epileptologist, a pediatric neurologist who has additional specialized training in the management of complex seizure disorders.

In general, if your child’s seizures have failed to be controlled well by three adequate trials of anti-seizure medications, then an evaluation by an epileptologist may be beneficial. The Epilepsy Program team works closely with the Cerebral Palsy team to coordinate your child’s complex medical and surgical needs. Epileptologists at Boston Children’s perform research in our F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center and Translational Neuroscience Center to understand how seizures arise in the developing brain, and to discover new medications and interventions to prevent and treat seizures.


Metabolic Processes Research

Cerebral palsy can be caused by problems with mitochondria, the complex cellular components that produce energy in almost every cell in the body, or defective metabolic processes that convert nutrients to energy for the body. Because mitochondria and metabolism are so important to many bodily functions, caring for children with mitochondrial or metabolic disorders poses unique challenges. The Cerebral palsy team works closely with the specialists in the Mitochondrial Program and the Metabolism Program to provide your child with the special care needed for the best outcomes. These experts also are conducting leading-edge research in our FM Kirby Neurobiology Center and Translational Neuroscience Center to find better ways to identify and treat these complex disorders.

Neuromotor and Neuromuscular  Research

The cerebral palsy team works closely with the specialists in the Neuromotor Therapy Program and the Neuromuscular Program to coordinate the complex care your child needs. These programs also offer the latest in translational research and clinical trials for children with diseases related to nerves and muscles such as spinal muscular atrophy and muscular dystrophy that often need the treatment offered by the cerebral palsy team. 

Dystonia Research

Some children with cerebral palsy have a predominant problem with dystonia, the abnormal movements that often limit function and comfort. Our specialists in movement disorders care for children with primary and secondary dystonia, and provide both diagnosis and treatment, including deep brain stimulation. Specialists in neurology, neurosurgery and neuroradiology are collaborating and conducting research to find the best treatments for children with complex problems from dystonia and spasticity.

Musculoskeletal Research at Boston Children’s

For more than a century, our orthopedic surgeons and investigators at Boston Children's Hospital have played a vital role in the field of musculoskeletal research. Our pioneering research helps answer the most pressing questions in pediatric orthopedics today—providing children with the most innovative care available.

The Orthopedic Center takes great pride in our basic science and clinical research leaders, who are recognized throughout the world for their respective achievements. Our orthopedic research team includes:

  • five full-time basic scientists
  • 28 clinical investigators
  • a team of research coordinators and statisticians

Orthopedic Basic Science Laboratories

Working in our basic science laboratories are some of the leading musculoskeletal researchers in the nation. Our orthopedic labs include:

The Clinical Effectiveness Research Center at Boston Children’s

Our Clinical Effectiveness Research Center (CERC) helps coordinate research and clinical trials to improve the quality of life for children with musculoskeletal disorders. This collaborative clinical research program is unique in the nation and plays an instrumental role in establishing—for the first time—evidence-based standards of care for pediatric orthopedic patients throughout the world.

Major areas of focus for the CERC include:

Find a Clinical Trial at Boston Children’s Hospital

Boston Children’s conducts hundreds of clinical trials related to many pediatric conditions at any given time. While children must meet strict criteria in order to be eligible for a clinical trial, your child may be eligible to take part in a study. Before considering this option, you should be sure to:

  • consult with your child’s treating physician and treatment team
  • gather as much information as possible about the specific course of action outlined in the trial
  • do your own research about the latest breakthroughs relating to your child’s condition

If your physician recommends that your child participate in a clinical trial, you can feel confident that the plan detailed for that study represents the best and most innovative care. Taking part in a clinical trial at Boston Children’s is entirely voluntary. Our team will be sure to fully address any questions you may have, and you may remove your child from the medical study at any time.

To find a Boston Children’s Hospital clinical trial, visit clinicaltrials.gov and search for “Boston Children’s Hospital” and your child’s condition.

Make an Appointment

For an appointment, more information or to obtain a second opinion for your child, please call us at 617-355-6021 or request an appointment online.

International Patients

For families residing outside of the United States, please call Boston Children's International Health Services at +1-617-355-5209.