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TIRR Memorial Hermann Research Center

NeuroRecovery Research Center

The NeuroRecovery Research Center (NRRC) forms the umbrella for seven independent laboratories at TIRR Memorial Hermann that collaborate on basic science studies and clinical trials. Research under way at the NRRC is supported by the National Institutes of Health; Memorial Hermann Foundation; Mission Connect, a project of TIRR Foundation; TIRR Memorial Hermann; and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.

Center for Wearable Exoskeletons

ExoskeletonResearchers at the Center for Wearable Exoskeletons study and develop clinical applications for wearable rehabilitation robotic systems, such as exoskeletons, to facilitate recovery and community reintegration in various patient populations. They also investigate physiological responses to and the underlying mechanisms of exoskeleton systems and interventions.

Current research at the Center focuses on the effects of wearable lower-extremity exoskeletons on gait and mobility in persons with spinal cord injury and stroke. Investigators work in collaboration with other research laboratories in the NeuroRecovery Research Center, the department of Electrical and Computational Engineering at the University of Houston and the School of Physical Therapy at Texas Woman’s University-Houston.

Neural Interfaces Laboratory

A collaboration with the department of Electrical and Computational Engineering at the University of Houston, the Neural Interfaces Laboratory is home to researchers studying neural interfaces in patient populations to better understand the underlying mechanisms of neural repair and recovery through reverse-translational studies of brain plasticity and brain-machine interaction. Knowledge gained from these studies will be used to develop biorobots and powered wearable exoskeletons in collaboration with other laboratories at the NRRC.

Nexstim Neuromodulation Laboratory

Research under way in the Neuromodulation Laboratory is focused on understanding the effects of noninvasive brain stimulation techniques on recovery from central nervous system disease or injury. Investigators are also developing treatment protocols for noninvasive brain stimulation, with or without adjunctive therapy modalities, to reduce neurologic impairments across populations.

NeuroMyo Engineering for Rehabilitation Laboratory

In the NeuroMyo Engineering for Rehabilitation Lab, investigators are developing and promoting assistive training and rehabilitation devices toward function restoration for patients with spinal cord injury, stroke and other neurological injuries. To understand the neural mechanisms contributing to impairment of human voluntary motion, they record electrical activity from single motor units as well as from whole muscle in neurological injury patients. They are also investigating the effects of different clinical interventions to aid in the design of rehabilitation strategies targeting specific motor unit properties.

Neurorehabilitation Research Laboratory

Researchers in the lab are studying the neurophysiology and pathophysiology of sensory and motor functions at the system level in healthy subjects and in patients with neurological impairments using a variety of stimulation methods – transcranial magnetic stimulation; transcranial direct current stimulation; peripheral electrical, thermal and acoustic stimulation; and BreEStim. Their goal is to develop interventions that facilitate recovery of sensory and motor function after neurological impairments in patients with poststroke spasticity, neuropathic pain after spinal cord injury and amputation.

Robotics Laboratory

In the Robotics Laboratory investigators are focused on the design, manufacture and evaluation of rehabilitation robotic devices for the upper limb. In collaboration with the department of Mechanical Engineering at Rice University, they aim to translate the latest innovations in robotic systems for rehabilitation following neurological injury to clinical practice. Robotic devices that are compatible with magnetic resonance imaging are used to gain insight into the neural basis of injury and recovery. Through the development of novel methods of sensing and control, researchers hope to detect user intent to formulate patient-centric therapies for maximum functional recovery.

UTHealth Motor Recovery Laboratory at TIRR Memorial Hermann

The UTHealth Motor Recovery Laboratory investigates a variety of areas in clinical rehabilitation. Among its many projects are studies of the role of robot-assisted therapy in exercise and health maintenance, mechanical oscillation and plasticity, orthotronic mobility systems and pharmacologic management of spasticity.

For more information about the NeuroRecovery Research Center, visit tirr.memorialhermann.org/research/neurorecovery-research-center/


Research Highlights

High Density Surface EMG Assessment of Motor Unit Alterations after Stroke

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Ping Zhou, Ph.D.

The long-term goal of this research project is to understand the complicated origins of muscle weakness after a hemispheric stroke, and to explore the origins of the associated muscle fiber loss, contracture and other key intrinsic property changes of the spastic-paretic muscles. Findings from the study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, will have important clinical value in the diagnosis, examination and treatment of stroke.

NRI:BMI Control of a Therapeutic Exoskeleton (Brain Machine Interface Control of a Therapeutic Exoskeleton to Facilitate Personalized Robotic Rehabilitation of the Upper Limb)

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS: Jose Contreras-Vidal, Ph.D., Gerard E. Francisco, M.D., and Marcia K. O’Malley, Ph.D.

This research study aims to accelerate the development, efficacy and use of robotic rehabilitation after stroke by capitalizing on the benefits of patient intent and real-time assessment of impairment. Validation will interface, which will be augmented with a noninvasive brain-machine interface to include the patient in the control loop, making the therapy active and engaging for patients across a broad spectrum of impairment severity in the rehabilitation tasks. The study is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.