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, BC Centre for Complex Nerve Injuries

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 an early career 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.

Recent Collaborations

Other recent collaborations are with ICORD principal investigator Dr. Andrei Krassioukov, examining the usefulness of a bedside autonomic testing battery for measuring autonomic nervous system function after SCI. In a preliminary study, it was demonstrated that the autonomic nervous system is impacted in different ways, in different patients, using standardized clinical autonomic tests. Future collaboration will be focused on standardizing clinical autonomic nervous system measurement after SCI.

Current opportunities in the Lab

While the lab has no specific openings, if trainees are interested in opportunities related to his area of research please contact Dr. Berger with inquiries.

Recent publications

  • 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.
  • Berger, MJ, Kimpinski, K. 2013. Test-retest reliability of quantitative sudomotor axon reflex testing.. J Clin Neurophysiol. doi: 10.1097/WNP.0b013e3182873254.
  • Berger, MJ, Kean, CO, Goela, A, Doherty, TJ. 2012. Disease severity and knee extensor force in knee osteoarthritis: data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative.. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). doi: 10.1002/acr.21608.
  • Berger, MJ, Chess, DG, Doherty, TJ. 2011. Vastus medialis motor unit properties in knee osteoarthritis.. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-12-199.
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