Human Locomotion Research Center
The Human Locomotion Research Center’s team is headed by Susan J. Harkema, Ph.D., a leading researcher in the field of neurological rehabilitation. She currently holds the positions of Associate Professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery at U of L, Rehabilitation Research Director at the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center and Director of Research at Frazier.
The research team is comprised of scientists, engineers, physicians, technicians and physical therapists who work together to understand how the nervous system works during human locomotion. The focus is on retraining the nervous system to facilitate the recovery of standing and stepping in individuals with spinal cord injury. Our studies investigate not only physiological characteristics that enable retraining of the nervous system to stand and walk, but also examine a number of issues secondary to spinal cord injury. These areas include:
Neuroplasticity – The investigation of whether the nerve pathways below a spinal cord injury will respond to retraining when legs are moved in a standing or stepping pattern.
Modulation of Reflexes – The identification of how reflexes during standing and stepping are modulated during locomotion.
Clonus – The assessment of whether stand or step training can decrease clonus (a form of spasticity that can produce muscle activity that interferes with the ability to walk or stand after spinal cord injury) during different testing conditions.
Functional Electric Stimulation - A technique that uses electrical currents to activate nerves affected by paralysis, the FES study looks at the effect of stand retraining using body weight support and functional electric stimulation on improving bones, muscles and recovering standing function.
Epidural Stimulation – The investigation of the combined effects of step and stand training with simultaneous direct epidural stimulation in individuals who have sustained a severe spinal cord injury. Read more about Epidural Stimulation.
Muscle and Bone – An exploration of the effects of step and stand training on bone density, muscle mass and blood flow at different time points after spinal cord injury as compared to non-injured individuals.
Cardiovascular Function – The assessment of whether an experimental training program may lead to changes in cardiovascular function (specifically low blood pressure) after spinal cord injury.
Pulmonary Function – An investigation of whether respiratory muscle training, functional electrical stimulation (defined above) and step training can increase respiratory muscle strength and endurance in individuals after a spinal cord injury.