SEMINAR: Developing Assistive and Rehab Technology for SCI Patients

Tommy Roussel, Ph.D.
When Jan 30, 2019
from 12:00 PM to 01:30 PM
Where Shumaker Bldg, Room 139
Contact Name
Contact Phone 852-7485
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Parents of children who have suffered a SCI or are born with cerebral palsy or other neurologic injuries often ask what hope is there for my child? Traditionally, the response from therapists and clinicians has been to inform what parents and caregivers of the gradual and unavoidable decline of the child’s health and well-being: From scoliosis, to surgeries, to hospitalizations, this “anticipatory guidance” was delivered to prepare parents for what is to come. Hope at one time was the onset of antibiotics to reduce infections and pneumonia. Hope was a new wheelchair offering greater mobility, style, comfort, and long battery life. Any amount of activity was focused on body parts that were still working.

There is currently a paradigm shift going on, where clinicians and physical therapists are challenging the general consensus that there is no chance of recovery from SCI. In its place, research is now focusing on the “parts of the body that don’t work after injury.” Studies have shown that the excitability of the spinal circuitry can be raised by activating the neuromuscular system below the level of the lesion after SCI. Physical activity in the form of relatively new and progressive locomotor therapy (LT) originally used experimentally using a feline model and shown to be highly successful with adult SCI patients, has provided evidence that suggest the trajectory of outcomes for children with SCI can also be positive.

This seminar will report on the design and development of a pediatric-focused LT system (“Kermit”) for pediatric SCI patients that is currently in use at Frazier Rehab and in production commercially. Other patent-pending therapeutic devices such as a specialized LT harness developed specifically for pediatric patients, a SCI respiratory training system (“BreathForce”) for adult SCI patients, and a handwriting assistive device (“griPod”) for all SCI with compromised fine motor control will also be examined.



Tommy obtained his Ph.D. in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Louisville in 2014 and is currently a tenure-track Assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering. He completed his BS, and MS in Bioengineering at Louisiana Tech University in 1997, and 2001, respectively. Currently the director of the Bioengineering Instrumentation and Controls Lab, he tends to spends most of his time on the development side of the R&D spectrum. Along with developing technology for SCI patients, he is working on a remote sensor platform for environmental analysis of heavy metals such as arsenic as well as an experimental system to evaluate the possibility of performing surgery in space.

Dr. Roussel is also a founder of several startup companies born out of intellectual property developed at the University of Louisville.

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