Inside Gross Hall

It’s not gross at all, so far.  🙂  One of the young post-docs is showing us how he designs equipment to test and train rats and monkeys.  The animals get trained before injury on this equipment, which lets them use a baseline to see whether or not treatments are working.  The device is called the autoGSN.

One of the things they want animals to be able to do is make a choice to grab a bar.  They need them to have volitional control because anything that isn’t coming from the animal can’t be trusted — it might be a result of something the investigator is doing.  They’re currently working with 22 rats, who got 3 weeks of training before their injuries.

(This is one of the things that’s hard to remember about the research process — how bloody much time and thought and effort has to go into figuring out how to get reliable, true measurements that mean what you hope they mean.)

Now showing a suspended gait thing that’s on a curved overhead track — the usual ones only go forward.  They need ways to measure trunk strength and stability . . . the idea is to translate standing trunk balance to sitting balance.  Kelly’s strapping an AB assistant into the harness so that she can show us how a Wii-style game works.  There’s a sky scene projected on the wall in front of her with a floating balloon in it.  Her job is to use her body (trunk muscles) to pop the balloon.  At this point they only do this with incompletes, mostly due to IRB issues (gov’t control of risk stuff) but have just submitted a protocol for permission to work with completes.

Their incomplete studies have been successful, meaning, they were safe. She did mental practice and gait training with incomplete sci and looked at brain active before and after task.

They showed that people with incomplete injuries had cortical changes in the brain after training.  Low level Asia Cs to Ds who are incomplete can have rehab patterns set to take advantage of the parts of their brains that MRIs show are helping them.

Another area of focus is motivation.  Music, gaming, etc., are areas they’re working on as ways to get people to do the tedious and repetitive work that constitutes training.

Robotrunk is another thing they have in development . . . they want reliable and valid tools that can go quickly into the clinic.  What matters here is two things — one is reliable measuring tools so that treatments can be shown to be effective.  The other is to make devices that can become home-based rehab tools that are cheap and simple to use.

Guy is showing a brain interface system (not cheap, simple or home-based for sure!) . . . they’ve succeeded in wiring an AB person, asking that person to imagine walking as they look at an avatar on a computer screen, and seeing the avatar walk.  New paper published showing the success of this. The idea is to (eventually) use brain signals to activate (internal) prosthetics so that people with injuries can walk just by imagining that they are.

The music glove . . . it’s kind of like Guitar Hero, if you’ve ever seen that.  The subject wears a wired glove on one hand while music plays on an attached laptop.  Right now there’s an AB young man (who turned out to be Dr. Steward’s grandson) operating the thing to the sound of I Heard It Through the Grapevine.  He has to touch thumb to finger in time with the beat, and on the screen there are icons like little guitars floating up a fret board that show which finger to tap when . . . the idea is to motivate users to do their OT by making it challenging and game-like – more or less the same principle that gets AB people into the gym for aerobics classes . . . hit the beat, follow the instructions. More fun than doing reps with a set of weights.

And, another machine that works in a similar way, except that it has a ramp-up function for people with minimal ability to move their fingers.  At first it will do all the work for the hand, and then gradually – very gradually – back off as the fingers are able to work on their own.

And, another one — (people, this is like being a super-amazing toyland) – this time a small highly wired and sensitive package that sits on the subject’s back like a papoose. It’s attached to a computer that shows in realtime how successfully the person is using their trunk muscles. It knows if you’re not sitting up straight, and it knows if you’re not trying hard, and it knows exactly which muscles you’re pushing with, and god knows what other stuff. Seems like a highly useful tool to me.

Okay, half my roam-around time is gone already, and I haven’t even been in any of the basic science labs. 😦 Hate to leave this building!

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One Comment on “Inside Gross Hall”

  1. […]  Finally, can’t stop without mentioning the geek/toy room at RIRC.  So much creativity and effort and ingenuity going into trying to get tools made that will help […]

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