Vibrotactile stimulation provides powerful somatosensory and proprioceptive input to the nervous system. There is growing evidence that this stimulation may significantly improve limb function after brain injury. However, current technology restricts further research to short, laboratory studies. I designed a new wearable device that provides stimulation for extended periods of time and allows a treatment in the background of daily life - enabling an intensive, mobile intervention and further study. The stimulation method is also accessible to those who cannot perform traditional exercises due to low dexterity. In my first clinical trial, stimulation was associated with improved range of motion, sensation and muscle tone in stroke survivors vs placebo.
My goal is to define new methods of therapy using wearable vibrotactile stimulation. Recovery of arm function after stroke is my current focus, and I propose to expand this work to other sensorimotor disabilities in the coming year. This project will investigate the neuromuscular mechanisms of stimulation, the use of a plantar foot stimulation device for gait and sensory recovery, and the potential impact of stimulation on developing limb function in cerebral palsy.
Sponsors: Allison Okamura (Mechanical Engineering) and Maarten Lansburg (Neurology & Neurological Sciences)