Recent scientific breakthroughs in neuroplasticity make it clear that repetitive practice can facilitate recovery during therapy after neurological injury. Individuals with motor deficits due to stroke, spinal cord injury, or traumatic brain injury, traditionally have been counseled to avoid strenuous effort for fear of exacerbating the injury. Traditional therapies have often focused on learning compensation techniques instead of restoring function in the affected limbs. In the last decade, however, new research concerning activity-based therapies has demonstrated that aggressive therapy can produce exceptional results in the rehabilitation of neurologically impaired individuals.
The underlying principle is simple: to regain the use of a neurologically impaired limb, the patient must undergo focused practice with their limb or limbs. Among the most successful therapies are constraint-induced movement therapy for the upper limb, and bodyweight-supported treadmill training for the lower limbs. A major factor limiting the accessibility of these therapies, however, is the labor required for implementing them. Having one or more physical therapists work with a single patient for multiple hours on a daily basis for eight to 12 weeks is not currently a course of treatment generally covered under most insurance policies. Clinicians, therefore, have turned to scientists and engineers to devise financially viable alternative means for providing intensive motor practice for rehabilitation therapy patients.
The core mission of the Rehabilitation Robotics Group is to facilitate a multi-disciplinary, collaborative environment that accelerates the development, testing, and effective use of robotic devices to improve mobility and function in individuals with physical limitations and disabilities. Each of the Rehabilitation Robotics Group’s 8 laboratories, with their many investigators and collaborators, are deeply engaged on a daily basis in attempts to advance those goals.