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Neuromuscular Research Laboratory

Through the development of novel robotic gait training device with an AI-based control system and study of changes in cardiovascular, pulmonary, and sensorimotor functions and relevant biomarkers, our researchers are developing effective approaches and technologies in neurorehabilitation to help stroke survivors and patients with spinal cord injury, especially those who are non-ambulatory.

Our researchers are also exploring the efficacy of a mind-body intervention for multiple symptoms in people with chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, or knee osteoarthritis.

Research in the Neuromuscular Research Laboratory has two focus areas. One focus area is on the neuro-motor control of movement, locomotion and balance in healthy human subjects and people with neurological disorders and sports injuries. To develop novel approaches and technologies in neurorehabilitation for people with neurologic disorders such as stroke or spinal cord injury. Recently we worked intensively on the other focus area to explore the Qigong exercise as a holistic mind-body intervention for improving simultaneously multiple symptoms that are mediated by stress. We have worked on clinical trials using this mind-body approach in people with fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer with promising outcomes. 

Current Projects

Gait training in chronic non-ambulatory stroke survivors for improving cardiovascular, pulmonary, and sensorimotor functions.

  • In this project, we will use a novel gait training device developed in our laboratory to train chronic non-ambulatory stroke survivors. Our pilot data showed promising results. We will also develop an AI-based control program in order to make the gait training program available in home or community settings.

To develop a gait training program as an aerobic exercise to improve physical fitness in non-ambulatory individuals with spinal cord injury.

  • In this project, we will examine the influence of spinal neuroplastic changes after the gait training on the cardiac adaptation. This project may extend our traditional view on the benefit of gait training on the cardiovascular system.

To examine the efficacy of a Qigong exercise program on non-motor symptoms in people with Parkinson’s disease

  • This is a NIH supported project. We focus on the non-motor symptoms in people with Parkinson’s disease. The Qigong exercise showed promising results in our pilot study. We will examine its efficacy in the current project using a randomized controlled clinical trial.

To examine the effectiveness of a Qigong exercise on multiple symptoms in people with fibromyalgia

  • In this project, we will examine the effectiveness of the Qigong exercise on multiple symptoms in people suffering from fibromyalgia. We have done an efficacy trial. This project will go one step forward.

To conduct a pilot clinical trial to examine the efficacy of an interval walking exercise in people with knee osteoarthritis.

About the Lab

The Neuromuscular Research laboratory is located in the Robinson building. It has 1,825 sq.ft. lab space containing 10 rooms (5 offices, two patient dressing rooms, one handicap accessible bathroom, service area and large testing area for various human subject experiments).

Lab Equipment

The laboratory is currently equipped with many pieces of expensive high-tech equipment, such as a motion measurement system, two force platforms, a desk robot used for upper extremity motor training, a wireless EMG system, and a Biodex Dynanometery System.

Biodex System 3 Pro equipment photo

Biodex System 3 Pro
(Biodex Medical Systems, Inc., Shirley, New York)


This is a sophisticated piece of equipment for performing dynamometry on human subjects. It can be used to train and test isometric, isokinetic, isotonic and passive modes of muscle performance in normal and pathological conditions. The system can be used to test large as well as small joints of the body. These include the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, and ankle.

The laboratory has also purchased an attachment for measurements of trunk rotational strength. The system can provide concentric and eccentric isokinetic testing at speeds of 1 to 500 deg/s and 1 to 300 deg/s respectively. The instrument can measure a wide range of concentric torque (1 to 500 ft-lbs) and eccentric torque (1 to 300 ft-lbs).

TeleMyo™ 900 EMG System system
(U.S.A. Inc., Scottsdale, AZ)


This equipment measures and processes surface electromyography (SEMG) and associated signals using Noraxon's amplifier technology. Data is transmitted from the subject via radio frequency to a computer-connected receiver up to 300 yards (274.32 meters) away.

With the TeleMyo 900, subjects can be tested during real-life activities. This battery-operated system, including the receiver, is portable, compact and lightweight so that it can be used anywhere, indoors or outdoors. The current system in our laboratory can monitor eight muscles simultaneously collecting both raw and integrated signals.

AMTI OR6-5AMTI Biomechanics Force Platform
(Advanced Medical Technology, Inc., Watertown, MA)


The lab has two of these devices as part of an extended walkway to measure simultaneously forces about the anterior-posterior, mediolateral and vertical axes of bodies in contact with the force platform surface, as well as the moment component about the vertical axis on its surface. This makes it useful to study ground reaction forces and moments for balance as well as gait studies.

Each force platform weighs about 70 pounds and can function within a wide range of temperatures (0 to 125?F). The forces and moments are measured by strain gauges near the four corners of the platform. The upper limits of the platform are 5000N (1125lb) of vertical load and 2000N (450lb) of shear force applied anywhere on the platform.

i-glasses SVGA Head Mounted Display
( i-O Display Systems, Sacramento, California)


This device can be used to provide an immersive virtual world for subjects to interact with. Its most notable feature is that the field of regard covers the entire sphere surrounding the viewer and there are no gaps in imagery regardless of which direction the user looks. It is primarily suited for a first-person point of view and has a resolution of 1.44 million pixels per display (800X600 RGB color sequential system).

It accepts either a VGA (640X480) or an SVGA (800X600) computer input at 60Hz. The field of view is 26.5 degrees diagonal and its eye relief is 25 mm. Its weight is not more than 7 Ounces, especially suited for patients and the weak.

InMotion2 Shoulder-Elbow Robot
(Interactive Motion Technology, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts)


With a workspace accommodating normal reach, this equipment moves, guides or perturbs a subject’s arm while it records motions and mechanical quantities such as position, velocity, and forces applied. Researchers may program the subject's video interactions, while therapy clinics have access to libraries of "video games" that engage patients in ways appropriate to their level of impairment. Software is designed to maximize safety, flexibility, and ease of use.

The operating system is a Linux Kernel Module with access to a small real-time microkernel, providing robust sampling rates. The RTLinux system provides data portals between kernel and user modes, enabling the LKM to exchange data with normal Linux processes for control input/output, output logging, or output display.

miniBird 800 6D Tracker
(Ascension Technology Corporation, Burlington, Vermont)


This is a six-degrees-of-freedom measuring device used to measure the position and orientation of a small sensor with respect to a transmitter. The sensor is capable of making from 30 to 144 measurements per second of its position and orientation when it is located within 30 inches of its transmitter.

The miniBird determines position and orientation by transmitting a pulsed DC magnetic field that is measured by its sensor. From the measured magnetic field characteristics, the sensor computes its position and orientation and makes this information available to the host computer.

OPTOTRAK 3020 Motion Analysis System
(Northern Digital, Inc. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada)


A pre-configured and pre-calibrated system, this equipment allows fast set-up and immediate use for motion measurement. The system uses active markers with an accuracy of up to 0.1 mm and a resolution of 0.01mm. It can collect 3D data with 3 markers at a frame rate of 450Hz. Its size and weight make it easy to move between locations.

The system has been widely used in the lab to collect kinematic data in studies of gait, gait initiation, single-limb stance balance, and hand movement. In most of applications, the collected 3D raw data is further processed using the lab-made programs.

TrueOne® 2400 Metabolic Measurement System
(Parvo Medics, Inc. Sandy, UT)


This device measures VO2 max as well as lung function. Some specific measurements using the system include VO2Max, RER, FEV, FVC, METS, VCO2, VE, VT. The system can be linked with any Polar® Heart Rate Monitor.

Lab Team

Lab director
Wen Liu, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science

Current Students

  • Batool Alkhamis, MS, PT
  • Derong Yang, MS
  • Elvira O’Neal, MD

Collaborators

KU School of Health Professions

Physical Therapy, Rehabilitation Science, and Athletic Training
University of Kansas Medical Center
Mail Stop 2002
3901 Rainbow Blvd.
Kansas City, KS 66160
ptrs@kumc.edu

913-588-6799