Jason J. Kutch, PhD, BSE

    Kutch     Dr. Jason Kutch joined the faculty of the USC Division of Biokinesiology and PhysicalTherapy in August 2011 as AssistantProfessor. He will direct the Division’s Applied MathematicalPhysiology Laboratory (AMPL). Dr. Kutch was previously Research Assistant Professorin the USC Department of Biomedical Engineering.

His research is focused onthree goals: 1) To understand how the complex networks in the central andperipheral nervous systems produce coordinated activity in muscle fibers; 2) Toengineer practical, non-invasive systems to study these networks in humans; and3) To apply the findings and technology to improve the lives of people withneuromuscular disorders, particularly chronic pain.

To locate the central andperipheral sites of impairment in individuals with chronic pain, Dr. Kutch isusing electrophysiology and brain imaging. His previous research has shown thatmicro-fluctuations in human muscle force contain a wealth of information abouthow the nervous system controls multiple muscles. Dr. Kutch has also developedmathematical algorithms to associate these fluctuations with electricalactivity in muscles, which may reveal how the CNS is regulating the activation ofneurons in the spinal cord. These two findings form the basis for noninvasivetechnology that can assess whether the CNS is properly controlling muscle atthe spinal level, and Dr. Kutch is currently using these approaches to identifynew avenues for treating chronic pain disorders.

At the Dana & DavidDornsife Cognitive Neuroscience Imaging Center at USC, Dr. Kutch is also currentlylooking at how changes in the brain might affect muscle contraction in patientswith chronic pain. His study, “Pathological insula connectivity and neural controlof muscle in Chronic Prostatitis/Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CP/CPPS)” mayidentify the neural circuitry that causes pelvic muscles to contractinvoluntarily during periods of stress. Studies have shown that CP/CPPS is themost frequent urological diagnosis for men under 50, with quality-of-lifescores consistently lower than congestive heart failure, diabetes, and Crohn’sdisease.

Physical therapists are atthe front lines treating this perplexing disorder. In collaboration with DanielKirages, DPT, PT, OSC, FAAOMPT, Instructor of Clinical Physical Therapy, Dr.Kutch recently received Division funding for a pilot study, “A criticalevaluation of physical therapy for Chronic Prostatits/Chronic Pelvic PainSyndrome (CP/CPPS).” (Please see story on page 6.)

In August, Dr. Kutchpresented “Biomechanics to Brain: Unraveling the complex neural connectivity ofmulti-muscle control” at the annual meeting of the American Society of Biomechanics,and “Applying mathematical physiology to unravel compromised neuromuscularcontrol in chronic pain” at the USC Engineering, Neuroscience and HealthSeminar Series.

Other recent presentationsinclude “Is math the cause of or cure for chronic pain? New approaches to theperplexing problem of pain” (Sixth Annual Symposium, UCLA BiotechnologyTraining in Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Program) and “EMG is notrecruitment” (Myths and Monsters in Motor Control Symposium at the Annual Meetingof the Society for the Neural Control of Movement).

As a Postdoctoral Research Associate(2008-2010) in the USC Brain-Body Dynamics Lab of Dr. Francisco J.Valero-Cuevas, Dr. Kutch investigated the necessity of particular muscles andthe biomechanical basis for muscle synergies. With Dr. Valero-Cuevas as PrincipalInvestigator, Dr. Kutch co-authored “Control of Finger Motion and Force forPrecision Pinch,” supported by a National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01 grant.Dr. Kutch’s recent publications include “Muscle redundancy does not implyrobustness to muscle dysfunction” with Dr. Valero-Cuevas (Journal of Biomechanics 44:1264-1270, 2011).

Dr. Kutch earned a BSE in MechanicalEngineering from Princeton University in 2001 with minors in Engineering Biology,and Robotics and Intelligent Systems, and a PhD in Applied and InterdisciplinaryMathematics in 2008 from the University of Michigan in collaboration with TheRehabilitation Institute of Chicago.