Vestibular and Oculomotor Research Laboratory (VORLab)

The Vestibular and Oculomotor Research Clinic, or VORC, is located in the UAB School of Optometry. The VORC houses state of the art equipment to objectively and comprehensively test vestibular, oculomotor and balance function. Currently, we are investigating behavioral biomarkers for concussion and vestibular/oculomotor function in children with cerebral palsy and congenital cytomegalovirus. We are also developing innovative interventions to treat children and adults who have vestibular related impairments.

Human Performance Laboratory

The Human Performance Laboratory (HPL) consists of two state-of-the-art research spaces located adjacent to each other and is co-directed by Drs. Christopher Hurt, Matthew Ithurburn, and Harshvardhan Singh. The HPL utilizes gold-standard approaches to evaluate biomechanics, neuromuscular performance, metabolic and aerobic performance, and clinical function to help understand mechanisms of disease and recovery, as well as the extent to which these mechanisms are modifiable with interventions.

Specific research equipment to assess human movement include: an 11-camera Vicon motion analysis system with 2 AMTI force platforms embedded in an overground walkway, a MotekForce Link dual-belt instrumented treadmill, a prototype exercise testing and training treadmill (Resist-X), a Protokinetics Zeno Walkway, a Biodex multi-joint dynamometer, a Delsys 16-channel wireless EMG system, and an Eccentron eccentric resistance strength trainer. Research funding for projects underway within the lab come from the NIH, Michael J Fox foundation, and the Center for Clinical and Translational Science at UAB. Current projects are focused on disease mechanisms and intervention strategies to improve quality of life for individuals with hip and knee injuries, osteoporosis, and neurologic conditions such stroke and Parkinson’s disease.

Locomotor Control and Rehabilitation Robotics Laboratory

David A. Brown, PhD is the director of this UAB stroke research facility located at 516 20th Street South. The research focus of this lab is directed towards the understanding of neuromusculoskeletal control during active movement in individuals post-stroke. Studies seek to understand the underlying control mechanisms of poor locomotor control and to develop quantitative evaluation and intervention tools for the amelioration of locomotor and balance deficits post-stroke. Experimental approaches include measurement of electrical muscle activity, lower limb force and movement trajectories, and electro-physiological reflex testing during locomotor movement such as walking and pedaling.

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This lab is also focused on the development of novel apparati useful for rehabilitation. Two examples include a tilt-cycle ergometer used to measure, during pedaling tasks, weakness in paretic muscles, limb loading capability, speed of movement, lateral balance stability, and rhythmic muscle activity and a new collaborative robotics system, the KineAssist MAX, a gait and balance system. This system allows the study of balance and postural responses to challenging functional tasks such as stairs, stepping over objects, and forward/backward pushes.

Past and current funding received for UAB stroke research and other studies from the Foundation of Physical Therapy, Veteran’s Association, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, the National Institutes of Health.

Exercise Neuroscience Research Lab

The Exercise Neuroscience Research Lab (ENRL) is co-directed by Professors Robert Motl and Brian Sandroff. The ENRL is dedicated to studying physical activity behavior, its measurement, its promotion and consequences in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). The goal of our research is to generate knowledge to help stop and reverse MS-related consequences, thereby restoring function and quality of life. ENRL research is funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, EMD Serono, Inc., and Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers.

Mechanisms of Spinal Manual Therapy Laboratory

William Reed DC, PhD directs the Mechanisms of Spinal Manual Therapy laboratory (MSMT). Globally, there is growing popularity and increased use of non-pharmacological approaches for acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain. Maximizing clinical efficacy of spinal manual therapy interventions will require a greater understanding of their underlying neurophysiological mechanisms. The primary focus of the MSMT lab is directed towards determining the peripheral and central mechanisms of spinal manual therapy (i.e. spinal manipulation/spinal mobilization) for the treatment of musculoskeletal pain and/or related disability. We use a variety of animal models, custom-made spinal manual therapy devices, behavioral and electrophysiological methods in our laboratory to investigate translationally relevant research questions with the ultimate goal of improving clinical care.

Research Collaborations

Physical Therapy in Osteoporosis Collaboration Group

Harshvardhan Singh, PhD collaborates with Donald Lein, PT, PhD to investigate various novel therapeutic strategies to address musculoskeletal problems related to osteoporosisThere is not much known about the effect of different styles of muscle strengthening techniques on bone density and bone strength. One of the novel approaches that this team is interested is in use of muscle lengthening contractions to create greater and safe loading on bone to make it stronger. Dr. Singh and Lein are also investigating if addition of exercise to an ongoing drug treatment for osteoporosis could increase the effectiveness of the drug treatment. In addition, Dr. Lein and Dr. Singh are also involved in research with investigators at University of Massachusetts to examine the role of postural exercises including yoga in the overall rehabilitation paradigm of osteoporosis. The overall goal of their research is to promote skeletal health to decrease the risk of fracture in individuals with osteoporosis.

The Wallace Research Laboratory and UAB/Lakeshore Research Collaborative

The Wallace Research Laboratory will fulfill the research agenda of the UAB/Lakeshore Research Collaborative. The UAB/Lakeshore Research Collaborative focuses on research in health promotion and applied rehabilitation science that will restore, improve, or maintain function, community participation, and quality of life for people across the lifespan who have or will face chronic physically disabling conditions (e.g., spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, or stroke). This is accomplished through the development and oversight of a world class, shared space for dedicated research on exercise, nutrition, and emotional self-regulation (e.g., health behaviors) for improving health, function, and well-being among persons living with physical disability and chronic health conditions. The shared space will provide an environment that facilitates inclusion and interaction of a range of scientists and clinicians including those in health professions (e.g., physical therapy, occupational therapy, nutrition, and health services administration) as well as psychology, engineering, epidemiology, education, and medicine. This will permit a collaborative, multidisciplinary interaction between UAB and Lakeshore that acts as an accelerator and incubator for research on health and wellness for optimizing programs, services, and outcomes critical for quality of life and independence.

The goals of the Wallace Research Laboratory include:

  • Development and evaluation of current and new programs and services (e.g.,
    rehabilitation, fitness, recreation, athletic, and education programs)
  • Development and validation of new supportive technologies
  • Identify and develop meaningful alternatives for improving quality of life

UAB Constraint Induced Therapy Research Group

Constraint-Induced Movement therapy or CI therapy is a therapeutic approach to rehabilitation of movement after stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). CI therapy consists of a family of treatments that teach the brain to "rewire" itself following an injury to the brain. CI therapy is based on research by Edward Taub, Ph.D. and collaborators at this institution that showed that patients can "learn" to improve movement of the weaker parts of their bodies. These therapies have significantly improved the quality of movement and the amount of use of the more-affected arm or leg for common daily living activities in most patients who have been treated. CI therapy has been shown to markedly change the organization of activity in the brain and remodel brain structures. The research laboratory conducts many different CI therapy projects. Treatment is without cost. The requirements for acceptance depend on the particular project being carried out at any given time. The current research projects apply CI therapy for the arm after Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), stroke and multiple sclerosis (MS).