Department of Kinesiology

Virtual Environment for Assessement and Rehabilitation Laboratory


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Laboratory Overview

As we navigate the environment, we must continually adapt our gait to avoid or accommodate obstacles such as stairs, other people or moving cars. After an injury, aging, or pathology, the ability to adapt gait to the environment is compromised, leading to an increased risk of falling and injury. To restore a patient's ability to appropriately interact with the environment – termed functional mobility – a physical rehabilitation program is employed. Unfortunately, the decision of when functional mobility has been restored is largely subjective, making it difficult to know when a patient should be released to return to dynamic activity, such as sports or active duty. Releasing the patient prematurely could lead to an increased risk of further injury.

Goals and Objectives

The mission of the Virtual Environment for Assessment and Rehabilitation Laboratory (VEAR Lab) is two-fold.

  1. Develop and apply objective, quantifiable metrics that accurately index functional mobility. This is a vital step toward a clinical framework that specifically targets and individualizes physical rehabilitation to enhance functional mobility. We adopt a dynamic systems perspective in our lab, which affords the ability to index how gait patterns evolve over time. These dynamic patterns in gait reflect a person's ability to exhibit functional mobility. By indexing these patterns prior to a rehabilitation program, exercises can be designed to incorporate the specific gait patterns the patient is lacking.
  2. Create virtual reality (VR) applications that are specifically designed to restore functional mobility. Once the missing gait patterns leading to the locomotor dysfunction have been identified, VR applications can be designed to incorporate the missing patterns. VR applications can provide the patient with a visual stimulus to which they can synchronize and affords them the opportunity to restore the gait characteristics that led to their locomotor dysfunction. Our lab had developed VR applications that use visual metronomes, walking footprints, and avatars to elicit the desired gait pattern.

Research

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Metrics that quantify functional mobility
Our lab focuses on locomotor and posture dysfunction caused by a variety of etiologies. These dysfunctions may manifest in a number of different ways, requiring a multifaceted approach to understand the underlying dynamic changes. (More about our metrics)

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VR applications to restore functional mobility
VR is a medium that shows great promise for the field of rehabilitation due to its flexibility in creating unique training environments to challenge locomotor control and enhance rehabilitation. (More about our VR applications)

Instrumentation

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The VEAR Lab is equipped with a wide range of biomechanical equipment to pursue our research program. This includes 3D motion capture, virtual reality immersion capabilities, a treadmill that simulates slips and trips, and much more. (More about our instrumentation)

Collaborators

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Our current collaborators and their area of expertise include:

  • Dr. Adam Kiefer – Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center – motor coordination, injury prevention, virtual reality
  • Dr. William Warren – Brown University – visual control of locomotion, virtual reality
  • Dr. Michael Lewek – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – chronic stroke
  • Dr. Jay Haran – Navy Experimental Diving Unit – mild traumatic brain injury
  • Dr. Geoff Wright - Temple University - mild traumatic brain injury, lower limb amputation, virtual reality
  • Dr. George Michel - University of North Carolina at Greensboro - motor development
  • Drs. Sandy Shultz and Randy Schmitz – University of North Carolina at Greesnboro – ACL injuries
  • Dr. Scott Ross - University of North Carolina at Greesnboro – balance control, ankle instability
  • Dr. Louisa Raisbeck – University of North Carolina at Greesnboro – motor control and learning
  • Dr. Jeffrey Fairbrother – University of Tennessee – motor control and learning

VEAR Lab Press

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Local Fox 8 news story Read more ...


UNCG RISE Network story


American Kinesiology Academy (AKA) story

UNCG Undergraduate Research Expo

Virtual Rehabilitation story

UNCG Research Magazine story