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Robotic Training of Arm and Hand Movement After Spinal Cord Injury

Lead Physician: Gerard Francisco, M.D.

Co-Principal Investigator: Marcia O'Malley, Ph.D. (Rice University)

Co-Investigators: Corwin Boake, Ph.D., Jeffrey Berliner, M.D., Nuray Yozbatiran, Ph.D.

Description / Abstract: The objective of this project is to demonstrate the feasibility and effectiveness of robotic training of arm and hand movement in persons with impaired arm and hand movement due to spinal cord injury (SCI). In the first phase, robotic devices developed by the Rice University Department of Mechanical Engineering will be adapted for use with SCI patients.  A therapy protocol will be developed based on the robotic devices and adapted to the needs of the SCI patients. In the second phase, we will conduct a pilot treatment study to demonstrate that the device has promise in improving arm and hand function of persons with upper-extremity weakness caused by SCI. Subjects will be adults with upper-extremity weakness caused by tetraplegia or central cord syndrome who have sufficiently preserved movement in the arms and hands in order to participate in the exercises. Motor testing of the upper extremities will be performed before and after treatment, to measure therapeutic changes associated with robotic training. The results will have clinical impact by demonstrating the potential for robotic training in the SCI population.

Inclusion / Exclusion Criteria:

  • Diagnosis of a complete or incomplete cervical lesion as defined by the American Spinal Injury Association classification
  • Upper-extremity weakness associated with tetraplegia
  • No previous central or peripheral nervous system insult interfering with interpretation of the results
  • Age at least 18 years
  • English-language comprehension and cognitive ability sufficient to give informed consent and to cooperate with the intervention
  •  No joint contracture or severe spasticity in the affected upper extremity, as measured by a  Modified Ashworth Score greater than 3 out of 5
  •  Not being involved  in any specific exercise program (e.g., NMES, FES) within the previous 3 months and no planned alteration in upper-extremity therapy or medication for muscle tone during the course of the study
  •  No recent significant trauma to forearm or hand
  •  Eligibility for standard rehabilitation at the time of enrollment (i.e., absence medical comorbidities that would prevent standard rehabilitation)
  •  No condition (e.g., severe arthritis, extreme shoulder pain) that would interfere with valid administration of the measures or with interpreting motor testing


Sponsor: Mission Connect

For more information: Please contact the Principal investigator for more information. Enrollment is not accepted online.