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Investigational Technologies in Stroke Recovery Laboratory

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 culminate in the development of novel therapeutic interventions designed to more effectively target specific upper extremity movement impairments.

Our Team

Principal Investigator

Collaborating Staff

  • Ahalya Mandana, MS
  • Gina Clark, PT, DPT - Shirley Ryan AbilityLab
  • Lexie Cirrincione, OTR/L - Streeterville Day Rehabiliation Center
  • Amanda Hoffman, MS, OT/L - Streeterville Day Rehabiliation Center

Graduate Students

  • Grace C. Bellinger, MS, MPH/PhD (Cand.)


Progressive Abduction Loading Therapy in Acute/Subacute Stroke Recovery

We have begun work on a phase IIb randomized clinical trial. The stroke recovery trial is supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute Of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01HD096071. The study extends prior intervention work from the lab to clinical practice as an augmentative therapy and will be conducted at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in collaboration with Dr. Richard Harvey, MD, Director of the Brain Innovation Center.

Current Projects

Constitutive Elements Predicting Reaching Dysfunction in Chronic Severe Stroke

This cross-sectional study quantitatively evaluates multiple impairments that may contribute to reaching dysfunction, including isometric strength, loss of independent joint control (flexion synergy), flexor spasticity and passive range of motion. A multiple regression model will determine the relative contribution of each impairment to reaching function using standardized coefficients. It is hypothesized that flexion synergy expression is the overwhelming contributor to reaching dysfunction.

Constitutive Elements Predicting Reaching Dysfunction in Acute/Subacute Severe Stroke

We will be implementing the same model described above at four timepoints during acute to subacute recovery. It is currently unclear how various impairments such as weakness, abnormal synergy, and reflex hyperexcitability manifest in early stroke recovery and how they impact reaching function. This work will be conducted at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab with patients undergoing in-patient stroke rehabilitation.

Selected Key Work

Flexion Synergy Overshadows Flexor Spasticity During Reaching in Chronic Moderate to Severe Hemiparetic Stroke

We have recently completed an study integrating movement kinematics and kinetics with EMG of elbow flexors and extensors to tease apart the contributions of synergy-related and spasticity-related flexor activation to reaching function. Results indicate an overwhelming impact of flexion synergy overshadowing flexor spasticity on reaching function. 

Read the study publication in Clinical Neurophysiology.

Progressive Abduction Loading Therapy with Horizontal-Plane Viscous Resistance Targeting Weakness of Flexion Synergy to Treat Upper Limb Function in Chronic Hemiparetic Stroke: A Randomized Clinical Trial

We have 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

Read the study publication in Frontiers of Neurology - Stroke.

Graduate Student Research

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 2019

"A pilot study investigating the predictive capacity of strength, synergy, spasticity and passive range of motion on reaching function in chronic moderate to severe hemiparetic stroke."

DPT students (class of 2019) conducted quantitative measurements of flexion synergy, spasticity, weakness and passive range of motion to evaluate the predictive capacity of each underlying stroke impairment to reaching function. This is part of a larger study being conducted by Grace Bellinger, MS, PhD cand. (below left) as part of her Neuroscience PhD dissertation.


DPT Class of 2019: Arek Solawa, PT, DPT, Qianyun Meng, PT, DPT, Amanda Tay, PT, DPT, and Rebecca Dugan, PT, DPT.

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) measured shear wave velocity in the paretic biceps muscle of individuals with stroke. A five-rater design was employed to evaluate inter-rater reliability in trained novice users. With the validity and reliability supported, this metric will serve as a new tool for clinicians to evaluate muscle architectural changes that occur following stroke.

NU DPT Class of 2018, Keyra Ogden, DPT, Ake Paramadilok, DPT, Nicole Stortini, DPT, Jenna Urbaniak, DPT and Nick Newman, DPT

Presenting at Combined Sessions Meeting of the APTA, New Orleans, LA, 2018. This work was conducted in collaboration with Dr. Netta Gurari, PhD and Dr. Sabrina Lee, PhD.

DPT Class of 2018: Keyra Ogden, PT, DPT, Ake Paramadilok, PT, DPT, Nicole Stortini, PT, DPT, Jenna Urbaniak, PT, DPT, and Nick Newman, PT, DPT, presenting at Combined Sessions Meeting of the APTA, New Orleans, 2018. This work was conducted in collaboration with Netta Gurari, PhD, and Sabrina Lee, PhD.

Classes of 2017 & 2016

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

DPT class of 2017: Stefani Cleaver, PT, DPT, presented at APTA National Conference (CSM 2017) on behalf of students in the classes of 2017 and 2016. 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.

NU DPT 2016 Graduates, Kim Sipple, PT, DPT and Crystal Liang, PT, DPT presented their work in Anaheim, CA at the Combined Sections Meeting of the APTA, 2016.

DPT class of 2016: Kim Sipple, PT, DPT, and Crystal Liang, PT, DPT, presented their work in Anaheim, California, at the Combined Sections Meeting of the APTA in 2016.


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