News Release

Kessler Foundation receives grant to study cortical changes in youth with brain injury

With the New Jersey Health Foundation grant, Drs. Kiran Karunakaran and Karen Nolan of Kessler Foundation will conduct a pilot study assessing neuromuscular responses due to injury and robotic exoskeleton gait therapy

Grant and Award Announcement

Kessler Foundation

Kiran Karunakaran and Karen Nolan, Kessler Foundation

image: Drs. Karunakaran and Nolan conduct Human Performance & Engineering Research at Kessler Foundation. view more 

Credit: Kessler Foundation

East Hanover, NJ - February 21, 2018 - Drs. Kiran Karunakaran and Karen Nolan have won a $35,000 grant from New Jersey Health Foundation to study the cortical changes in children and young adults with lower extremity motor deficits caused by traumatic brain injury (TBI).

TBI is one of the leading causes of partial or complete loss of function in lower limbs in people with TBI. Novel rehabilitation treatments improve motor function deficits through repetitive, continuous movement practice. Walking in robotic exoskeletons (RE) has been recognized as an effective method for rehabilitation compared to conventional physical therapy for lower limbs due to RE's ability to assist the user in performing goal-oriented, repetitive movements. The neural mechanism involved in this recovery due to training is still not completely understood. This pilot study will explore the clinical, functional and neurophysiological effectiveness of RE-assisted gait therapy for children and young adults with TBI.

"Our research shows that robotic exoskeleton training has the potential for tremendous impact on gait function, balance, and neuromuscular responses, as well as community participation and quality of life for individuals with TBI," explained Karen Nolan, senior research scientist in Human Performance and Engineering Research at Kessler Foundation.

"Our hope is that understanding the cortical (brain) activity changes after injury and during recovery will provide us with information to better understand the neural mechanism of learning or recovery and thus help in improving the design and effectiveness of rehabilitation therapy," remarked Kiran Karunakaran, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in Human Performance and Engineering Research at Kessler Foundation.


About Human Performance & Engineering Research at Kessler Foundation

Under the leadership of Guang Yue, PhD, six areas of specialized research are headed by experts in biomechanics, bioengineering, movement analysis, robotics, neurophysiology and neuroimaging. All areas of specialized research contribute to the common goal to improve mobility and motor function so individuals with disabilities can participate fully in school, work, and community activities. Their efforts fuel innovative approaches to address disabling conditions, including brain injury, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, arthritis and cancer.

Research is funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living & Rehabilitation Research, National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, Reeve Foundation, New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Injury Research, Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, and Children's Specialized Hospital.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. Learn more by visiting

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