SPARC Program Research Components

The SPARC program aims to enable the development of the next generation of neuromodulation devices informed by first promoting the systematic development of high resolution neural circuit maps of the PNS. The program is comprised of four highly interactive components and is supported through a combination of Cooperative Agreement and Other Transaction (OT) mechanisms. These mechanisms afford the program the agility necessary to make rapid progress in this endeavor. In addition, these mechanisms enable the SPARC PM and funded awardees to quickly and fluidly incorporate relevant breakthroughs and discoveries, engage non-funded pioneers, and establish SPARC awardee collaborations and partnerships. For more detail on the management of SPARC Other Transaction awards visit our SPARC Other Transactions (OTs) - General Information page.

The four components are: 1) Functional and Anatomical Mapping of Innervation of Major Internal Organs, 2) Next Generation Tools and Technologies, 3) Use of Existing Market-Approved Technology for New Market Indications, and 4) Data Coordination, Mapping, and Modeling Center.


Component 1: Anatomical and Functional Mapping of the Innervation of Major Internal Organs

Component 1 is designed to enhance our foundational scientific knowledge in several areas including:

  • Detailed and integrated functional and anatomical knowledge of the neural circuits that control organ function;
  • The specific and diverse neural signals that are carried by nerve fibers serving different end organs;
  • The functional relationships between neural signals and end-organ responses;
  • The variability that exists in expression/anatomical representation of the neural cell-types at each potential point of implantation (of neuromodulation interfaces);
  • Differences that exist between animal models and humans with regard to neuroanatomy and control of organ activity by the nervous system; translating animal data to human applications;
  • The extent of variance in these functional mechanisms from subject to subject as they pertain to effects and side effects (e.g., inter-individual variability in anatomy and response).

Component 1 comprises two phases. The first phase focuses on anatomical and functional mapping using current state-of-the-art technologies; a second phase is likely to include application of next-generation, technologies to enhance and refine the functional mapping, and design and pilot new therapies.

Component 1 will be integrated with other SPARC components described below in order to maximize progress and will provide data and expertise for development of maps in Component 4.

Currently and previously funded researchThese mapping projects are available for partnering and collaborating activities within and outside the SPARC consortium.

  • (RFA-RM-15-018) Six projects funded through 3-year, OT2 awards.
  • (RFA-RM-15-020) Ten projects funded through 2-year, OT2 awards. 
  • (RFA-RM-17-003) Four projects funded through 3-year, U01 Research Project Cooperative Agreements. 

Active Funding Opportunities:

  • (RFA-RM-15-018) Limited Competition: Comprehensive Functional Mapping of Neuroanatomy and Neurobiology of Organs (OT2)


Component 2: Next Generation Tools and Technologies

Component 2 entails new tool and technology development to facilitate the progression of the other SPARC components. Technologies will be developed in response to the continuing needs of mapping studies, supported through Component 1. This includes early stage and later stage technology development projects. It is expected that Component 2 teams will make freely available – and Component 1 teams adopt into their research plans – promising next-generation mapping technologies as they move into the second phase of the program. Moreover, documentation, data, and training, pertaining to these technologies, will be available through the efforts of Component 4. Ultimately, the knowledge produced by the SPARC program – the comprehensive maps and new insights into translation from animal models to human patients – is expected to inform the next generation of neuromodulation therapies.

Currently and previously funded researchThese technologies are available for use by the SPARC consortium while the projects are available for partnering and collaborating activities within and outside the SPARC consortium.

  • (RFA-RM-15-002) Twelve projects funded through 2-year, U18 Research Demonstration Cooperative Agreements. 
  • (RFA-RM-16-003) Six projects funded through 2-year, OT2 awards
  • (RFA-RM-17-010) Four projects funded through 3-year, OT2 awards

Active Funding Opportunities:

  • (RFA-RM-17-010) Limited Competition: Comprehensive Functional Mapping of Neuroanatomy and Neurobiology of Organs (OT2)


Component 3: Translational Partnerships for Human Functional Mapping and New Indications

Component 3 facilitates, through template agreements and leveraging NIH Common Fund support, the development of partnerships between industry and academic investigators to explore the utility of existing devices to address new indications. Through these partnerships, new clinical utility of market-approved devices is expected in the near term. Moreover, data from the use of these devices may be helpful for the mapping efforts. Future iterations of this component will make extensive use of these translational partnerships, information generated by the Anatomical and Functional Mapping component,  and the Next Generation Tools and Technologies component to study functional neuromodualtion in the context of clinical studies.

Currently and previously funded researchThese new market projects are available for partnering and collaborating activities within and outside the SPARC consortium.

  • (RFA-RM-16-009) Three projects funded through 2-year, U18 Research Demonstration Cooperative Agreements.
  • (RFA-RM-16-027) Two projects funded through 2-year, U18 Research Demonstration Cooperative Agreements. 

Active Funding Opportunities:

  • No active opportunities at this time.


Component 4: Data and Resource Center

The SPARC Data and Resource Center (DRC) supports assembly of data from Component 1, 2, and 3 projects into a multifunctional integrative hub that in turn facilitates open science via three functionalities: data coordination, map synthesis and stimulation. Funded investigators closely coordinate with the DRC in order to achieve the following:

  • Integrate data to  generate detailed, predictive, functional and anatomical neural circuit maps for major organs and their functionally-associated structures;
  • Develop techniques and evidence-based approaches that will allow the research community to interactively access these maps;
  • Develop therapeutic approaches for disease conditions.

Other activities will include but are not limited to: development of informatics tools, development of ontology and provenance tools, development of standards, curation of data, development or adaptation of common data elements, maintenance of documentation and protocols regarding tools and technologies developed by or brought into the SPARC program, promoting and facilitating data upload and release, and providing a mechanism to protect patient rights and data.

Currently and previously funded researchThese DRC projects are available for collaborating activities within and outside the SPARC consortium.

  • (RFA-RM-16-008) Three projects funded through 5-year, OT3 Awards.

Active Funding Opportunities:

  • No active opportunities at this time. 


This page last reviewed on December 12, 2017