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Our major projects are listed below. All of these projects are aimed at investigating human movement variability. Publications stemming from these projects are available on our website. If you are interesting in working with the NBCF on a particular project, please contact Dr. Nick Stergiou.

Motor Development Studies

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a term used to describe a group of chronic conditions affecting body movements and muscle coordination. It affects 2 to 3 children per 1,000 live births and is caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, usually occurring during fetal development, childbirth or infancy. It also can occur before, during or shortly following birth. Children with CP may not be able to walk, talk, eat or play in the same ways most other children do. So far, there is no known cure for CP, thus medical interventions are limited to the treatment and prevention of complications arising from CP's effects. However, because infants with symptoms of CP are not always diagnosed in the early months after birth, caregivers often miss the opportunity of early intervention services. Early intervention protocols are crucial for a child’s motor development because the nervous system is very pliable in infancy and can be “re-shaped” based on the treatment. The goal of this project is to develop and evaluate innovative rehabilitation interventions in order to improve movement deficits related to sitting balance present in CP children. To learn more about our studies with infants, please visit website dedicated to this project.

In addition, we have begun a series of protocols investigating the link between perception and action in children with autism spectrum disorder. Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of life, and affects the brain's normal development of social and communication skills. The exact number of children with autism is not known. A report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that autism and related disorders are more common than previously thought. It is unclear whether this is due to an increasing rate of the illness or an increased ability to diagnose the illness.

Gait Related Studies

Peripheral arterial disease:

The overall goal is to determine the limitations caused by the disease and also to decide which treatments are best for the patients with peripheral arterial disease.

Here is the link

Multiple sclerosis:

To develop and evaluate innovative rehabilitation interventions in order to slow disease progression and improve movement deficits, related to both balance and walking, present in these patients.

Gait and cognition:

To develop screening tools for early identification of future fall risk in the elderly and to evaluate new therapeutic interventions that would counteract the underlying pathological process.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease:

To determine the presence of abnormal walking patterns in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Stair negotiation:

To determine the effect of aging and the cognitive demand of stair negotiation.

Gait and music:

To determine the effect of different types of music on gait patterns in young and older adults.

Virtual Reality Studies

As costs continue to decline and system usability improves, innovative virtual reality approaches have emerged that demonstrate value for scientific understanding and treatment of difficult clinical conditions. The rationale behind these applications is that a virtual reality system will allow the patient to walk in an environment that can be more pleasant than a hospital room, where the therapist can also incorporate additional challenges to be tried in a user-friendly and safer situation. However, research has not kept pace with the engineering. Thus, the scientific support for the application of these systems is limited. The goal of this project is to lay the foundation for the proper utilization of advanced biotechnologies, such as virtual reality environment, for studying gait related disabilities.

Robotic Surgery Studies

Robot-assisted surgery is a form of minimally invasive surgery performed by a surgeon who controls a medical robot like the daVinciTM. With the advancement of medical developments and new technology, it is now more challenging to learn surgical techniques, requiring more experience and practice to master them. This led us to consider alternative training environments outside the operating room. Virtual simulation has been increasingly implemented in medical education. Training in virtual simulation provides a risk-free and low-cost environment for surgical trainees to learn robotic surgery. The goal of this project is to implement an effective, quantifiable and cost-efficient training environment for surgical trainees. The implementation of a training program using simulation will provide trainees an optimal opportunity to learn robot-assisted techniques independently and effectively.

Robotic Rehabilitation Studies

The goal of the project was to determine whether training with visual feedback enhances the learning process of a new environment in chronic stroke survivors and to apply this training to examine the effect on accuracy during reaching movements. Results from this study will demonstrate the effectiveness of our techniques to improve motor learning in stroke survivors. Ongoing studies are investigating the mechanisms of these changes through innovative brain imaging technologies that will bring to light how the brain is affected. These experiments will further the understanding of neural control of abnormal movements in stroke subjects and will provide a new direction to stroke rehabilitation.