Children with cerebral palsy to benefit from ‘artificial muscles’

A team of researchers from the University of Delaware has received nearly $200,000 in start-up funding to develop a motorized ankle foot device for children with cerebral palsy (CP) that includes a novel artificial muscle.

The brace is the first lower extremity device designed to correct alignment or provide support using soft muscle-like “smart materials,” known as dielectric elastomer actuators, that contract in response to electric current.

Made from off-the-shelf elastic materials, these artificial muscles closely mimic the function of the body’s skeletal muscle and can help children with CP that struggle to complete a range of motion under their own power. The device is lightweight, compact and noiseless, too, reducing the size of the orthosis needed while increasing the wearer’s degree of freedom in movement — a vast improvement over heavier, more rigid technologies.

Full story at

Magic-themed Therapy May Help Hand and Arm Function in Children with Unilateral Cerebral Palsy, Study Says

A type of intensive therapy that asks children with unilateral cerebral palsy (CP) to learn and practice magic tricks may help improve their hand and arm function and enhance their ability to do everyday tasks, a study reports.

The study, “Upper Limb Function of Children with Unilateral Cerebral Palsy After a Magic-Themed HABIT: A Pre-Post-Study with 3- and 6-Month Follow-Up,” was published in the Journal of Physical & Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics.

Children with unilateral CP have movement limitations mainly on one side of the body, affecting their ability to perform daily activities that require the use and coordination of both hands.

Hand-arm bimanual intensive therapy, or HABIT, is based on the principles of motor learning theory and neuroplasticity through structured, playful, and activity-based tasks involving two hands. HABIT includes motor learning principles of task selection, a structured practice of grading tasks, feedback, and home practice. In this way, children are engaged in fun activities and supportive environments that are different from typical therapy.

Full story at Cerebral Palsy News Today

Virtual Reality-based Exercise Fails to Improve Posture Control in Children With CP, Study Shows

A one-week intensive exercise program based on virtual reality (VR) failed to improve posture control in children with cerebral palsy (CP).

These are the preliminary findings of a larger study assessing the effects of a six-week, therapist-monitored home VR gaming program designed for children and adolescents with CP.

The study, “The Effects of a 5-Day Virtual-Reality Based Exercise Program on Kinematics and Postural Muscle Activity in Youth with Cerebral Palsy,” was published in Physical & Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics.

Cerebral palsy comprises a group of disorders that affect posture and restrict movement caused by non-progressive brain lesions that occur during pregnancy or infancy. Children and adolescents affected by CP are more likely to fall and injure themselves due to their lack of balance and posture.

Full story at Cerebral Palsy News Today

HSS takes young patients with physical challenges on a surfing trip

Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) made a splash this week with a surfing trip for young patients. Giving new meaning to the term “patient care,” the Adaptive Sports Academy at Lerner Children’s Pavilion at HSS treated 12 patients, along with some of their siblings, to sand and surf in Long Beach, Long Island.

The Academy enables young people with cerebral palsy or another physical challenge to experience the benefits of exercise. The program’s trips and recreational experiences aim to build their self-confidence, encourage independence, and increase physical activity and mobility. The excursions are offered without cost, thanks to the generosity of donors.

Adaptive surfing and other activities are competitive or recreational sports for people with disabilities. Sometimes rules or equipment is modified to meet the needs of participants. Some are understandably nervous at first, but they almost always exceed their own expectations and have a blast.

Full story at

Woman with Cerebral Palsy Climbs Tallest Mountain in Africa

Expeditions can challenge anyone. However, no matter how challenging, a physically difficult goal is beneficial for people with cerebral palsy. Working on controlling, strengthening, and loosening muscles helps with learning patterns, which can increase coordination. Many people with disabilities participate in a variety of sports and extreme physical activities. And one woman who has cerebral palsy has taken the idea of a physical expedition to a whole new level and challenge.

Imagine waking up and deciding that you were going to climb the tallest mountain in Africa — the elevation is 19,341 feet. Not many people choose to exert so much physical effort. I don’t think I would be brave enough to conquer any mountain, and certainly not the tallest one in Africa. Now imagine being almost 40 years old, having cerebral palsy, and wanting to climb the mountain. Cerebral palsy is a disability that makes moving muscles in the intended direction very difficult.

Full story at Cerebral Palsy News Today

DNA patterns in circulating blood cells can help identify spastic cerebral palsy

A Delaware team including Erin Crowgey, PhD, associate director of Bioinformatics with Nemours Biomedical Research, has published a study in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Bioinformatics, showing that DNA patterns in circulating blood cells can be used to help identify spastic cerebral palsy (CP) patients (Crowgey et al.).

The work represents a collaboration among researchers at Nemours, the University of Delaware (UD) and Genome Profiling LLC (GenPro for short). Co-authors of the paper include Robert Akins, PhD, the project principal investigator, who directs the Center for Pediatric Clinical Research and Development at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children; UD molecular biologist Adam Marsh, PhD, who is chief science officer at GenPro; and Karyn Robinson, MS and Stephanie Yeager, MS, of Nemours Biomedical Research.

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Flex CEUs: New CEU Courses


The goal of this CEU course is to establish the physiotherapy treatment of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome and examine the barriers that stop physiotherapists from increasing strength and flexibility and the contradictions of physiotherapists beliefs regarding their practice.


Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common lifelong disability affecting motor development in children.  The goals of this CEU course are to investigate spastic hemiparesis recovery after intensive technology-enhanced physical rehabilitation; the effects of manipulating object shape, size, and weight combined with hand-arm bimanual intensive training; the effects of modified Constraint Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT); and the effects of repetitive Transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS).


Limitations in ankle dorsiflexion have been associated with balance dysfunction and the development of altered gait patterns.  The goal of this CEU course is to investigate the relationship of ankle dorsiflexion, measured in non-weight bearing and weight bearing positions, to balance and gait performance in healthy young and older adults.

For more on these new courses and many more, visit the Flex course page


NIH Exoskeleton Shows Promise in Treating Crouch Gait in Children With CP

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) believe they’ve come up with an exoskeleton with the right combination of features to treat crouch gait in children with cerebral palsy (CP)—the device improves knee extension but does so in a way that allows wearers to use their own muscles.

Developed by the NIH Clinical Center Rehabilitation Medicine Department, the exoskeleton is intended to nonsurgically address the flexed-knee gait that often leads to losses in walking function and eventual complete loss of walking ability. Crouch gait is common among children with CP, which is the most prevalent childhood movement disorder in the US.

Full story at APTA

A Robot Physical Therapist Helps Kids with Cerebral Palsy

A young girl in Atlanta manages the symptoms of cerebral palsy with regular physical therapy, which normally means a visit to a doctor’s office, or hours of boring, repetitive actions on her own. Recently though, she began taking instructions, at home, from a pint-sized robot physical therapist called Darwin.

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology are using robots to help children and adults meet their physical therapy goals. And they’ve found that combining a simple game with words of encouragement and physical cues from the robots provides a noticeable boost to patients’ efforts, compared to asking them to go through the work on their own.

Full story of the PT robot at MIT Technology Review

Systematic Review: Commercial Video Games Likely a Good Option for Rehab

While researchers and designers continue to work on advanced video games and hardware intended specifically for rehabilitation, a new systematic review says that there’s sufficient research to support the idea that off-the-shelf games available on commercial gaming systems are useful as an adjunct to more traditional rehab approaches.

Researchers writing in the International Journal of Rehabilitation Research described findings from their analysis of 126 research articles published between 2008 and 2015, all of which focused on the use of commercially available gaming systems (VGs)—Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation, and Microsoft Xbox—as a component of rehabilitation. A total of 4,240 patients were included in the studies, which looked at VG use in connection with stroke recovery, cerebral palsy (CP), Parkinson disease (PD), balance training, problems associated with aging, and weight control.

Full story of commercial video games an option for rehab at APTA