Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Physical Therapy & Human Movement Sciences

Investigational Technologies in Stroke Recovery Laboratory

Robots example

Laboratory Description

The Investigational Technologies in Stroke Recovery Laboratory employs quantitative technologies such as robotics, electromyography, and ultrasound imaging to systematically investigate mechanism of motor recovery in individuals with stroke. Efforts cullminate in the development of novel therapeutic interventions designed to more effectively target specific upper extremity movement impairments.

Current and Recent Projects

The Effect of Resistance to Participant-Supported Reaching on Workspace of the Hand in Severe Chronic Stroke

This laboratory has recently completed a single-site double-blinded RCT funded by the National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research (H133G110245). The RCT utilized the ACT3D, a robotic device, to administer a dynamic arm strengthening intervention for adults with chronic moderate to severe stroke. Detailed information can be found at

Preliminary results have been presented in abstract form: DOI: 10.1109/EMBC.2016.7592055 

Produced by and published with permission of Jonathan Moeller

Graduate Student Research

Joseph V. Kopke, DPT, PhD (cand.): Upper-extremity Powered Orthosis Feasibility and Requirements for Application to Stroke Survivors

Dr. Kopke is part of the combined DPT/PhD (biomedical engineering) program at NUPTHMS. The overall goal of his thesis is to develop a controller and determine the mechanical requirements for a powered orthosis that enables stroke survivors to control each paretic joint independently and access more of their work volume to enable ADLs. Dr. Kopke is co-advised with Levi J. Hargrove, PhD, Director of the Neural Engineering for Prosthetics and Orthotics Laboratory, at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. 


Grace C. Bellinger, MS

Grace is a PhD student in the Northwestern University Interdepartmental Neuroscience (NUIN) program. Her previous work on interlimb coordination and interest in neuroanatomy has facilitated her transition into rehabilitation robotics research. Grace plans to investigate motor recovery in stroke and methods for implementing investigative technologies in acute clinical settings.


Ninette Gerritsen, MS: A Passive-State Comparison of Ultrasound Elastography of the Biceps Brachii With Robotic Measurement of Elbow Extension Impedance in Chronic Stroke

Muscle properties are known to change following stroke. An increase in connective tissue composition likely contributes to impaired reaching function. We utilized a single-DOF robotic device to measure passive elbow joint stiffness and ultrasound-based shear wave elastography to measure shear wave velocity (surrogate for muscle stiffness) in the biceps muscle. This work was part of the Masters Thesis of Ninette Gerritsen (pictured below) and is also in collaboration with Sabrina Lee, PhD and Netta Gurari, PhD.


Doctor of Physical Therapy Research (Synthesis Project)

This laboratory participates in the didactic education of doctor of physical therapy (DPT) students in the content area of clinical research.

Class of 2018

- "Inter-Rater Reliability of Shear Wave Ultrasound Elastography on the Biceps Brachii Muscle in Individuals with Chronic Stroke"

DPT students (class of 2018) are measuring shear wave velocity in the paretic biceps muscle of individuals with stroke. A five-rater design is being employed to evaluate inter-rater reliability. With the validity (see above) and reliability supported, this metric will serve as a new tool for clinicians to evaluate muscle stiffness changes that occur following stroke.

Class of 2018 pic

3rd year NU DPT Students Annual Research Day Presentation

Class of 2016 & 2017

- "Maximum Reaching Abduction Load: Evidence for the Concurrent Validity of a Rapid Robotic Assessment of Reaching Function Following Stroke"

DPT students presented their work in Anaheim, CA in 2016 at the Combined Sections Meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association. They presented results of a development project dedicated to the production of a clinically viable robotic evaluation method to quantify the impact of abnormal flexion synergy on reaching function in individuals with stroke. The robotic outcome has subsequently been investigated by the DPT class of 2017 with a larger sample size to evaluate the validity of the assessment tool. Our work from class of 2017 was selected and presented as a Platform Presentation in San Antonio, TX in 2017 at the Combined Sections Meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association.

Students presenting at CSM

NU DPT 2016 Graduates, Kim Sipple, DPT & Crystal Liang, DPT,  Presenting at APTA National Conference (CSM 2016)


NU DPT 2017 Graduate, Stefani Cleaver, DPT, Presenting at APTA National Conference (CSM 2017)

Class of 2014 & 2015

- "Assessing a Robotic Measure of Loss of Independent Joint Control in Chronic Stroke"

DPT students (class of 2014 featured below)  presented their work in Indianapolis, IN in 2015 at the Combined Sections Meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association. They presented results from an investigation of the minimal detectable change (MDC) of two robotic/kinematic metrics of reaching performance in individuals with moderate to severe stroke. The MDC is the smallest possible change in repeated measurements that cannot be attributed to error. Determination of the MDC will guide clinical evaluation of response to interventions such as occurring in the RCT described above.


Principal Investigator

Graduate Students

Collaborating Staff

Collaborating Faculty