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Rehab Rex: Non-Invasive Technology Helps Patients 'Walk'

Tue, 08/27/2013 - 10:28am
Shawn Lindsey, University of Houston

The Rehab Rex is a robotic exoskeleton used for helping paralyzed patients to walk using only the power of their thoughts. Credit: Cullen College of Engineering Office of CommunicationThe Cullen Foundation and The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) have awarded grants to a robotics research project by the University of Houston (UH) and The Methodist Hospital Research Institute (TMHRI).

The Cullen Foundation has directed $495,000 in philanthropic support to the research project and the TIRR Foundation has given $200,000 to purchase Rehab Rex, the latest version of a robotic exoskeleton patients use to "walk."

UH researcher Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal, professor of electrical and computer engineering, is working on perfecting a non-invasive brain-machine interface (BMI) technology that a patient can use to operate an advanced robotics system such as the exoskeleton.

The BMI works by interpreting brain waves that allow patients to control, with their thoughts, robotic legs and below-elbow amputees to control neuroprosthetic limbs.

Contreras-Vidal has partnered with Dr. Robert Grossman at TMHRI on the research project. Initial testing has begun at UH and broader clinical trials will be conducted at Methodist Hospital, possibly as early as this summer.

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