Omaha – Assistant Professor of Biomechanics Dr. Brian Knarr was recently awarded a competitive National Institutes of Health (NIH) R15 research grant for $442,693.
An R15 grant—also known as an Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA)—"supports small-scale research projects proposed by faculty members to expose undergraduate and/or graduate students to meritorious research projects, and strengthens the research environment of the applicant institution," according to the NIH website.
Over the next three years, Dr. Knarr and his research team will study the role of assistive devices during stroke recovery.
"The main goal of our study is to understand scientifically and quantifiably how post-stroke individuals are using assistive devices to help them walk," explains Dr. Knarr.
"For example, if they are using a cane and it seems to be helping them walk, why is it helping and what are the underlying components of biomechanics at work? We hope to determine how individuals are using different tools to change their biomechanics and help them walk post-stroke."
For the study, a research cane and a specially-designed set of treadmill handrails will serve as the core measuring devices. The research cane is an everyday walking cane retrofit with load cell instrumentation to measure the amount of load, or force, on the device. When research participants use the cane or handrails during the data collection stage, the devices will send information to motion capture software. Dr. Knarr and his team will then use this data to build descriptive computer models of each person’s movement.
"Computer models will give us the ability to better describe how individuals are using the devices. We want to use that information to advise clinicians on how to train post-stroke survivors to best use their assistive devices to enhance rehabilitation outcomes," explains Dr. Knarr.
"We hope this study will inform more effective rehabilitation techniques. Currently, stroke survivors' recovery experience often includes rehab on a treadmill with handrails used for balance and support. Because the use of handrails hasn’t been well-measured, clinicians are guessing on how to use them best."
The research will formally begin with data collections in Jan. 2019. Co-Investigators involved with the grant include:
- Samuel Bierner, M.D., Professor and Chair, UNMC Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation;
- Kendra Schmid, M.D., UNMC Campus Director of Assessment; Assistant Dean, Graduate Studies; and
- Darcy Reisman, PT, Ph.D., Academic Director of Neurologic & Older Adult Clinic; Professor and Associate Chair, Department of Physical Therapy, University of Delaware.
Dr. Nick Stergiou, founding chair of UNO’s Department of Biomechanics, explains why this type of federal funding is significant to the department and its researchers, many of whom are early in their careers, "Receiving this award is a wonderful achievement for Dr. Knarr who is only in his second year as an assistant professor. It highlights the quality of talent we attract to our team. On a department and institution level, it demonstrates how effectively UNO’s Center for Research in Human Movement Variability (MOVCENTR) can foster the development of our young scientists."