Mentor: Diane Damiano, Ph.D., FAPTA |
Mentor: Julia Kline, Ph.D. |
Lab: Pediatric Imaging and Neurorehabilitation Team (PINT); Neurorehabilitation and Biomechanics Research Section, Rehabilitation Medicine Department

Evaluating brain activity during functional tasks using noninvasive neuroimaging in healthy individuals and individuals with cerebral palsy

The primary focus of our research is to investigate mechanisms underlying normal and abnormal motor control and to design interventions and/or robotic devices to improve motor function in children with physical disabilities as a result of brain injury early in life, specifically cerebral palsy (CP). Our laboratory has a state-of-the-science motion capture system that precisely quantifies joint motion during walking or any motor task. This system can be integrated with surface electromyography (EMG) that provides information on which muscles are active and when. We utilize two non-invasive methods of assessing cortical activation patterns, electroencephalography (EEG) and Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) to record neuroimaging data that is synchronized with our biomechanics data. The primary goal of this project is to contribute to an ongoing study utilizing EEG, fNIRS, or both in combination with motion capture and EMG to evaluate brain activation during motor task performance, e.g. reaching and walking, in children with CP and a group of age-matched controls with typical development. We are also piloting the use of EEG signals in real-time to strengthen the neural connections between the brain and the body (neurofeedback). The specific project will depend on current activity and needs in the laboratory. The age range of participants is also dependent on current recruitment, and spans from infants as young as 6 months of age to children up to 17 years old (sometimes young adults).  We will mentor trainees on how to collect, process and interpret data in a very supportive environment that includes clinicians and bioengineers working closely together to improve the lives of children with motor disabilities.  

This project will enable the student to:

  1. Learn the basics of EEG analysis with strong mentoring and assistance from a highly qualified group of scientists/engineers.
  2. Assist in clinical experiments involving collection of EEG and/or fNIRS, EMG, and motion capture data during performance of a range of functional tasks.
  3. Learn and apply signal processing techniques to evaluate differences in cortical activity and biomechanical performance of upper extremity and lower extremity tasks across subject groups.

The student will have the added advantage of being in an active laboratory that is exploring different types of movement pathologies, utilizing novel motion and balance assessments including muscle and joint imaging techniques, and robotic development and testing for rehabilitation applications. We are located within the Clinical Center which is the world’s largest research hospital in the middle of the NIH campus.