Meet the Directors

The Abilities Research Center (ARC) is led by David Putrino, PhD, and Mar Cortes, MD. Through their leadership, we have continued our tradition of medical excellence and innovation.

David Putrino, Director

Dr. Putrino, is a physical therapist with a PhD in Neuroscience. He is currently Director of Rehabilitation Innovation for the Mount Sinai Health System, Director of the ARC, and Assistant Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation and Human Performance at the Icahn School of Medicine.

Dr. Putrino’s work focuses on developing innovative technology-based solutions for individuals in need of more accessible and higher quality health care. He conducts clinical trials of novel technologies to investigate their effectiveness at reducing and tracking symptoms in various patient populations.

Dr. Putrino collaborates with other clinical investigators both within and beyond the Mount Sinai Health Care System to determine how these technologies can help patients. He also works closely with developers to create technological solutions, such as a face-tracking system that allows people to control a computer completely hands-free.

Learn more about the Putrino lab and the work being conducted by Dr. Putrino.

Mar Cortes, Co-Director

Dr. Cortes is a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor focused on understanding neural plasticity and its clinical implications.

As the co-Director of the ARC, her mission is to develop novel, individualized rehabilitation strategies to promote motor recovery and improve quality of life for patients with mobility impairment. Her research focuses on how the brain connects to the spinal cord and how the descending motor commands are conducted, processed, and executed along the central nervous system axes to perform specific movements.

Dr. Cortes investigates how to activate, modulate, and reorganize brain and spinal networks in order to restore motor function in people affected by neurological disorders, such as spinal cord injury or stroke. In her studies, she combines state-of-the-art robotic technology and non-invasive brain and spinal stimulation techniques to understand the mechanisms of motor dysfunction and improve motor recovery.

Many of Dr. Cortes’s research studies are designed to explain the underlying mechanisms of motor dysfunction and enhance motor recovery after spinal cord injury in humans using several different approaches. These include:

  • The use of neurophysiology (transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS), to investigate the functional integrity of the corticospinal system; the specific pattern of reorganization in the primary motor cortex (TMS mapping) at chronic stages or during the rehabilitation process; and the spinal circuitry, by studying the H-reflex and its implication in motor recovery.

  • The use of neuromodulatory interventions with the aim of strengthening the preserved corticospinal connections below the level of the injury by targeting either the brain (using transcranial direct current stimulation, tDCS) or the spinal cord (using repetitive TMS combined with electrical stimulation).

  • The use of repetitive behavioral interventions such as the use of robotic devices or exoskeletons able to deliver precisely controlled, high-dose therapy, as well as to quantify motor dysfunction.