Richard Foulds and Sergei Adamovich, associate professors of biomedical engineering, are using virtual reality and robotics to learn how neural plasticity can help patients of stroke and cerebral palsy regain the use of their limbs. Using a HapticMASTER, a force-controlled robotic arm generally used in virtual reality, and a Cyberforce system, which provides similar tactile feedback for all the fingers of one hand, the researchers are studying computer-based rehabilitation routines.
As patients navigate an on-screen maze using a robotic arm or glove, they receive physical feedback that approximates walls, bumps and other obstacles. The research team is studying the development of coordinated skills that involve bimanual interaction, hand-to-eye coordination, posture and balance, and gait. They hope to make use of neural plasticity -- the flexibility of neurons -- to restore mobility in patients with cerebral palsy or stroke.
Dr. Adamovich was part of the team that developed a virtual reality-based exercise program for rehabilitating hand function after a stroke, along with Marilyn Tremaine, professor and chair of information systems, Michael Recce, associate professor of information systems, and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Rutgers University. He currently has an NIH grant to further refine this research by evaluating real-world finger and hand movements before and after VR rehabiliation training.
Read an article about rehabilitation research in NJIT Alumni Magazine.