Kessler Foundation scientists awarded NIH grant to study effects of post stroke robotic intervention

Karen Nolan, PhD, senior research scientist, and Soha Saleh, PhD, research scientist, in the Center for Mobility and Rehabilitation Engineering Research at Kessler Foundation, were awarded a $3,547,908 R01 grant by the National Institutes of Health. They are co-project directors for the study entitled, "Functional and neurophysiological effects of a progressive robot-assisted gait intervention early post stroke."

Despite significant advances in stroke rehabilitation research, including the development of activity- and technology-based interventions, many patients fail to fulfill their potential for recovery of lost mobility. To address the need for a new approach to aiding motor recovery, the Kessler multidisciplinary team will conduct a comprehensive five-year study of intensive high-dose gait therapy in the acute phase post stroke, using a protocol of robotic exoskeleton-assisted gait training.

This study, the first of its kind, is based on the Foundation's extensive research on the application of exoskeletons in rehabilitation research. Researchers will evaluate the impact of 30 hours of training on functional recovery, neuromuscular adaptations, and neuroplasticity. Collecting an array of structural and functional neuroimaging data and neurophysiological measurement will enable them to understand the mechanisms underlying the effects of exoskeleton-assisted gait therapy, and help form the basis for a new model for predicting prognosis for recovery.

"Predicting prognosis for recovery based on neuroimaging and neurophysiology outcomes will provide evidence for brain plasticity in response to the utilization of wearable robotic exoskeletons," said Dr. Saleh, co-principal investigator, "and that will contribute to future developments in rehabilitation strategies to advance stroke rehabilitation." Study participants will be recruited from Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation. The neuroimaging studies will be conducted at the Rocco Ortenzio Neuroimaging Center at Kessler Foundation, a rehabilitation research-dedicated facility.

We anticipate that intervening soon after stroke with intensive progressive and adaptive assist-as-needed exoskeleton-assisted gait training will improve recovery in these patients. Through this study, we will determine the best way to apply this comprehensive early intervention to individuals recovering from stroke, so they can maximize their progress during rehabilitation, and achieve the best possible outcomes," she concluded. "This grant will contribute to transforming how we view stroke recovery, and continue to change the prognoses for stroke survivors."

Dr. Karen Nolan, co-principal investigator

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