Rehabilitation Research for Recovery After Neurologic Injury

The consequences of stroke and spinal cord injury are devastating limiting such daily tasks as walking and reaching and grasping a cup. The focus of Neurorehabilitation Research in the PT Department at the University of Florida is to maximize functional recovery in adults and children following central nervous system injury or disease, specifically spinal cord injury and stroke, and to enhance their quality of life. Andrea L. Behrman, PT, PhD, FAPTA; Kathye Light, PT, PhD, Carolynn Patten, PT, PhD, and Dorian Rose, PT, PhD provide the leadership for this research combining expertise in neurorehabilitation, motor control and learning, aging, neurophysiology, and biomechanics. Our aim, through research, is to apply an understanding of the neurobiological control of movements, specifically walking and arm/hand function, with experience-dependent neuromuscular plasticity to develop and test therapeutic training interventions that promote recovery of daily function in the home and community. To that end, we pursue questions that will ultimately provide clinicians with the knowledge and tools to provide the “best practice” for the recovery of function. Furthermore, we are interested in understanding the mechanisms that impair locomotion after CNS insult relative to the requirements for purposeful and meaningful movements. We are also developing new tools for measurement that begin in the research lab, but that will be translated into clinical practice. We are also examining alternative means for dissemination of new therapies to clinical practice and delivery of therapy to the patient, such as specialized out-patient facilities providing standardized activity-based therapies, telehealth, circuit training, and wellness/fitness programs.

Our program uniquely partners with Dr. Dena Howland, Department of Neuroscience, McKnight Brain Institute, UF and a VA Research Scientist to conduct bi-directional translational research using both experimental models of spinal cord injury and the human condition to examine the plasticity of neural substrates post-SCI and interventions targeting recovery and the effects of putative therapeutic agents on recovery of locomotion. Thus, our basic science research directs and contributes to the advancement of human clinical research and findings in clinical research direct questions that are most suitable for inquiry in the basic science domain. This diverse team approach optimizes the efficiency and effectiveness of translational research moving forward the goal of improving recovery following spinal cord injury and other neurologic disorders.