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The Coleman Neuromuscular Hand Rehabilitation Laboratory

Select Research Projects

Biomechanical Modeling of the Hand


Index finger extensor hood

Kai Qian, Kay Traylor
The finger extensor apparatus is an elaborate structure that integrates multiple tendon forces to generate movements or exert fingertip forces. We are developing a dynamic, 3D model of the index finger using cadaver extremities in order to elucidate the function of each tendon within the extensor mechanism. 


Dynamic Model of the Index finger and Thumb

Dan Qui
Development of this model involves novel force-based approaches representative of muscle and tendon mechanics and incorporates passive properties to better describe the muscle-generated torque distribution at the joints. The initial design phase is to simulate healthy index finger and thumb kinematics based upon muscle properties and activation levels. Future plans include adjusting the model to account for known finger and thumb deficits following stroke.


Understanding Sensorimotor Control Mechanisms


Thumb force deficits

Kristen Triandafilou
Control of the thumb especially may be affected following stoke, yet these limitations and their origins have received little attention despite the importance of the thumb to hand function. The objective of this study was thus to quantify the kinetic workspace of the thumb following stroke.


Reflex coupling between thumb and fingers

Heidi Fisher
Spasticity and excessive coactivation contribute to hand impairment following stroke. Clinical attempts to passively extend/straighten the fingers during stretching or grasp therapy, for example, seem to elicit increased thumb flexion, which impedes hand motor control. The aim of this study was to explore this phenomenon and its origins.


Proximal influences on motor activity of the upper limb

Gilles Hoffmann
We investigate the potential role of the state of proximal body segments in motor impairment of the upper limb in hemiparetic stroke survivors, as well as the coupling of the activities of distal and proximal muscles in the upper limb post-stroke. 


Delineate Pathological Changes Following Stroke


Increased passive joint impedance

Megan Conrad & Dan Qui
Changes in muscle and soft tissue may contribute to weakness in finger and hand torque production observed post-stroke. Asymmetrical increases in joint stiffness and damping following stroke could make finger extension relatively more difficult than finger flexion. 

Muscle Atrophy and Weakness

  Kristen Triandafilou 
Greater atrophy in the extrinsic extensor muscles compared to the flexor muscles could contribute to asymmetric weakness in the hand. Muscle atrophy results in a reduction in muscle cross-sectional area and relates to a decrease in peak force production. In this study, the geometry of the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the index finger was evaluated using ultrasound. 

Mechanical power deficits

Megan Conrad
Although the ability to generate isometric grip force has been widely studied after stroke; little is known regarding mechanical power, i.e. the ability to generate hand forces during concentric contractions with the hemiparetic hand. Evaluation of hand power is appealing due to the dynamic nature of many functional tasks which require motion. The goal of this project is to evaluate mechanical power deficits and the possible contributing mechanisms during grasping tasks after stroke.


Development & Testing of Assistive Devices



Jose Ochoa
This externally actuated glove, controlled by a micorprocessor, is being devoloped to assist finger and thumb extension in stroke survivors. The goal of this device is to allow repeated practice of specific tasks for hand therapy in the home environment. The device allows the user three control modes: voice recognition, electromyography or manual. These modes can be used either independently or combined according to the needs of the user. Both position and force feedback are available for control and safety.



Xuan Kang 
The X-glove assists in individuated finger extension. Similar to the J-Glove, this externally actuated device is also controlled with either voice recognition software or muscle activation. The uniqueness is the ability to control each of the digits independently, thus offering a variable assistance when needed. This device is also intended for home therapy.



Heidi Fischer, Kelly O'Neill 
This device is powered by pneumatic pressure to assist in finger extension. The uses for this device range from whole hand tasks involving gross grasping techniques to more intricate tasks such as fine pinch involving individuation of the fingers. It is used in live occupational therapy sessions as well our virtual reality environments.


Animal-Machine Interface

Dan Qui
The interface provides a platform for small animal movement dynamic recording, motion training and virtual task training. The project based on a commercial 3-D haptic device Novint Falcon. The device can be both active and passive during tasks of different purpose. The device records the movement kinematics, gives specific force feedback under certain circumstances, provides force assistance or limits the range of motion. In short, it provides a virtual environment where small animals can play.


Therapeutic Innovations


Effectiveness of stretching as hand therapy following stroke

Xuan Kang
One commonly prescribed therapy following stroke involves stretching of the arm muscles. However, questions remain both in terms of efficacy and in terms of a number of stretching parameters such as method, frequency, and type. Uncertainty arises due to a lack of understanding of what stretching actually achieves. The goals of this project, then, are to identify mechanistic changes produced by stretching, to examine the efficacy of certain stretching parameters, such as frequency and repetition, and to measure the impact of a stretching/training protocol on hand rehabilitation following stroke. 


Virtual Reality as a Tool for Therapy


Alice in Wonderland

Nikolay Stoykov, Daria Tsoupikova, Randy Vick
We are developing a virtual reality environment for the rehabilitation of stroke survivors with impaired arm and hand function. We will immerse our volunteers in a magical world inspired by the story of Alice in Wonderland. In this world, they will have some strange encounters; they will try to catch cookies that run and sugar cubes that jump. Looking at classical brain plasticity studies we believe that life in Wonderland should aid in the recovery from stroke through the skilled movements people are constantly required to execute.


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