Below is a sample of current research projects
SENSORY LEG STIMULATION
Currently, more than 2.1 million amputees, including close to 1,600 military personnel, live in the US. Despite advances in design and fabrication of artificial limbs, no lower limb prosthesis offers a permanent and reliable method to restore a natural sensation of the missing foot and joints that could reduce risk for trips and falls, improve ability to negotiate uneven terrain, and help with gait symmetry and balance. In the Lower Limb Sensory Restoration Lab, we aim to restore sensation of foot-floor contact pressure and mechanical status of the ankle or knee to lower limb amputees.
FEELING TOUCH, AGAIN
When Keith Vonderhuevel lost his arm in a factory accident, he never thought that he'd be able to feel his hand again. That may very well change. Keith is currently a research subject at the Cleveland VA's Upper Limb Sensory Restoration Lab, where a team of engineers is pioneering prostheses that allow amputees to feel touch, pressure, and intensity.
Bill Kochevar, who was paralyzed below his shoulders in a bicycling accident, is believed to be the first person with quadriplegia in the world to have arm and hand movements restored with the help of two temporarily implanted technologies. A brain-computer interface (BCI) with recording electrodes under his skull, and a functional electrical stimulation (FES) system activating his arm and hand, reconnect his brain to paralyzed muscles. The BrainGate program was featured in over 1,000 international news sources following the release of an article in The Lancet in March, 2017.
Anthony DiMarco, MD, Principal Investigator, and Krzysztof Kowalski, PhD, Co-Investigator, are among a team of researchers at the VA Rehabilitation Research & Development (RR&D) Service, Center for Functional Electrical Stimulation (Cleveland FES Center) that is combining two systems to offer complete restoration of respiratory muscle function to subjects with spinal cord injury (SCI). Results of an interventional clinical trial demonstrate that a spinal cord stimulation system to restore cough can be used safely and effectively to restore a natural cough, and can be used in conjunction with a diaphragm pacing system.
Gaining a Better Understanding of Parkinson’s Disease
During his training as a neuroscientist, Aasef Shaikh, MD, PhD, studied eye movement and the vestibular system – the sensory system that contributes to balance and spatial orientation. Afterward, he decided to focus his research on Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that causes gait and balance impairment. Dr. Shaikh is currently involved in 3 research projects that utilize deep brain stimulation (DBS), and examine how Parkinson’s participants perceive the environment in which they walk, how they perceive their own motion through an environment, and how they navigate any given environment.
When Dennis Bourbeau, PhD, contemplated what issues he would like to focus on with his training in neural and electrical engineering, he had one overarching goal – to make a difference in people’s lives. His research focuses on developing approaches using electrical stimulation to restore pelvic autonomic functions – such as bladder, bowel, and sexual function – lost to spinal cord injury (SCI) and other neurological disorders.