Research

Goals

We strive to develop and apply knowledge of basic and clinical neuroscience to rehabilitation of limb movement after neurotrauma.

Overview

walking verticalWhile the brain is the body’s command centre, connections within the spinal cord control rhythmic activities like walking. The brain contributes to such movements, but spinal cord circuits can coordinate muscle activity on their own, relying on feedback from moving limbs to regulate the pattern. When these connections are lost or altered due to injury to the brain or spinal cord, movement in the arms and legs may be greatly reduced depending on the location and severity of the injury. The focus of the research in the Rehabilitation Neuroscience Laboratory is on understanding how coordinated muscle activity in arms and legs can be improved after neurotrauma. Studies are conducted in participants who are neurologically intact as well as with individuals who have had strokes or spinal cord injuries to determine the extent to which enhanced sensory feedback techniques can retrain spinal cord circuits and improve limb coordination. New knowledge gained from this research may lead to more effective methods of improving motor coordination following brain or spinal cord injury. These therapies could be used to help improve walking recovery after neurotrauma.

Experimental Paradigms

These are predominatly human locomotor paradigms. This includes rhythmic movement of all four limbs or isolated movements of limbs or limb pairs. The major apparatus for study of rhythmic movement are: 1) high performance motorized treadmill and overhead harness support system; 2) custom made instrumented hydraulic arm cycling ergometer; 3) integrated arm and leg cycling apparatus; 4) integrated arm and leg stepping apparatus.

We use various types of reflexes to probe neural activity. These include stretch and H-reflexes (muscle afferent probes) and cutaneous reflexes (skin afferent probes).

Technology

grass_stimThe laboratory is equipped with the standard tools for human neurophysiological and biomechanical recordings. There are 12 amplifiers for tethered surface EMG recording, 4 amplifiers for intramuscular EMG recording, a wireless 8 channel EMG system, 6 goniometers, 6 nerve stimulation units, 2 data acquisition computers (yielding a total simultaneous acquisition of 32 channels of information), and sets of 4 force sensitive resistor foot pads for recording step cycle information during locomotion. We also have a customized vibration stimulus unit used for evoking stretch reflexes in the plantar flexor muscles.

Partnerships

We have active collaborations with researchers at the University of Michigan (USA), Univeristy of Florida (USA), Chiba University (Japan), and Aalborg University (Denmark).