Dr. Michael Berger

Principal Investigator

B.Sc. [Kinesiology] (Western University), M.D. (Western University), Ph.D. [Integrative Physiology of Exercise] (Western University)
Clinical assistant professor, Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, UBC
Consultant Physiatrist, Vancouver Coastal Health and Island Health Authorities

Research Interests

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Dr. Berger draws inspiration for his research by observing his patients’ journey through the rehabilitation process after spinal cord injuries and peripheral nerve injuries. It is both inspiring and humbling to watch a patient experience a catastrophic and life-altering event, but then rise to the challenge of their new reality and return to a healthy, meaningful life. Dr. Berger sees his role in this process as finding ways to remove or lessen the impact of the physical, social and emotional barriers these patients encounter during rehabilitation, whether immediately after the injury or many years later. Being a clinician-scientist also offers Dr. Berger the unique opportunity to witness and share in the frustrations and setbacks of his patients, in order to generate research and evidence that will lead to improvements in rehabilitation and function.

Dr. Berger is a clinician-scientist in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, with sub-specialty training in electrodiagnosis and neuromuscular diseases. His research investigates the downstream effects (e.g. changes and adaptations) of neurotrauma on the peripheral nervous system, including the neuromuscular and autonomic nervous systems, using a combination of human neurophysological and imaging measurement techniques. These are the systems that are directly responsible for effective interactions with the patients’ environment. Understanding and mitigating the downstream effects of neurotrauma on these systems, will allow for more targeted and patient-specific disease-modifying and rehabilitation treatments.

Dr. Berger is currently researching the potential applications and outcomes of a surgical technique called nerve transfer, which is being used to help restore hand and arm function to patients with SCI and other nerve injuries, in conjunction with members of the BC Centre for Complex Nerve Injuries. “Results could help physicians decide which patients will benefit most from surgery, when to perform it and how best to deliver rehabilitation, in order to provide the best chance for return of arm function”, says Dr. Berger. Read more about this work on VCHRI’s interview with him.

Currently recruiting for:

Validating quantitative ultrasound measures of upper limb muscle size

Muscle strength, especially in the upper limb, is a very important outcome related to physical functioning and quality of life. However, current strength testing devices (dynamometers) are unable to capture the strength of a single muscle and often focus on Read More...

Ultrasound evaluation of muscle health following cervical spinal cord injury

The objective of this study is to investigate sublesional muscle health in SCI patients with subacute cervical SCI. We are comparing several ultrasound measures between patients and healthy controls. Participants will be asked to relax in a comfortable sitting position. Read More...

Randomized control trial: activity-based therapy with non-invasive stimulation

Motor and Autonomic Concomitant Health Improvements with Neuromodulation and Exoskeleton training: an RCT in individuals with SCI (MACHINE) Drs. Andrei Krassioukov, Tania Lam, Mike Berger, and Stacy Elliott and their teams are investigating the effects of activity-based therapy (ABT) with Read More...

Recent Collaborations

Dr. Berger frequently collaborates with ICORD, UBC, national and international Collaborators. Dr. Berger is the PI of a Canadian multi-centre study of nerve transfer surgery in SCI, collaborating with surgeons at Dalhousie University, Queen’s University and the University of Toronto. He often collaborates with Dr. Kip Kramer, ICORD PI, and they share grant funding for projects examining neuropathic pain. Dr. Berger also works closely with Dr. Colin Franz at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago, investigating downstream neurophysiological function after SCI.


Some of Dr. Berger’s major awards and accomplishments include:

  • Health Professions-Investigator Award (Michael Smith HRBC, 2023)
  • Editorial Board, Muscle & Nerve Journal (2024-2029)

Current Lab Members

Undergraduate Students Masters Students Medical Students Medical Residents Postdoctoral Fellows Research Staff Administrative Staff
Hannah Rho Yassine El Alaoui Margot Schmidt Lee Bauer Matt Debenham Heather
Harvey Wu
Derek Wu

Trainee Awards

Year Trainee Award
2023 Christina
1st Place platform presentation, ICORD Trainee Research Day
2023 Hannah Rho Top Poster Award, UBC Science Research Day

Current Opportunities in the Lab

Dr. Berger is currently accepting trainees at the Masters, PhD, and Postdoctoral level. For inquiries regarding the Berger laboratory, please contact laboratory coordinator Dr. Harvey Wu.

Recent publications

  • Berger, MJ et al.. 2024. Nerve Transfer After Cervical Spinal Cord Injury: Who Has a "Time Sensitive" Injury Based on Electrodiagnostic Findings?. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2023.11.003.
  • Berger, MJ, Robinson, L, Krauss, EM. 2022. Lower Motor Neuron Abnormality in Chronic Cervical Spinal Cord Injury: Implications for Nerve Transfer Surgery.. J Neurotrauma. doi: 10.1089/neu.2020.7579.
  • Chapman, KM et al.. 2021. Recommendations for Patients with Complex Nerve Injuries during the COVID-19 Pandemic.. Can J Neurol Sci. doi: 10.1017/cjn.2020.191.
  • Berger, MJ et al.. 2017. Multi-Domain Assessment of Autonomic Function in Spinal Cord Injury Using a Modified Autonomic Reflex Screen.. J Neurotrauma. doi: 10.1089/neu.2016.4888.
  • Ives, CT, Berger, MJ, Kimpinski, K. 2013. The autonomic reflex screen in healthy participants from Southwestern Ontario.. Can J Neurol Sci. doi: 10.1017/s0317167100016000.
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