Dept.: Associate Professor, Departments of Rehabilitation Medicine and Physiology & Biophysics
Neuroscience Focus Groups:
Motor paralysis from stroke or spinal cord injury can be severe and long-lasting, despite damage to a relatively small area of the nervous system. Our goal is to develop neuroprosthetic devices capable of bypassing these damaged areas and restoring volitional control of movement to paralyzed limbs. We have recently demonstrated that this approach is feasible by using activity recorded from motor cortex to directly control electrical stimulation of paralyzed muscles. In addition to replacing lost motor function, we are also attempting to guide and promote the regeneration of damaged neural tissue. Targeted electrical microstimulation can be used to increase the strength of synaptic connections among neurons via mechanisms of Hebbian plasitcity. We are investigating whether this synchronous stimulation, applied across an injury site, can guide neurons to make connections with appropriate targets. We are also testing novel methods for the physical therapy and rehabilitation of movement disorders. We have developed a portable visual feedback device to train children with cerebral palsy (CP) to produce functional muscle synergies. By connecting the activity of impaired muscles to control the movements of popular computer games, we are able to improve volitional control of coordinated muscle activity.