Hendershot - Dearth #2- 2018

Biomechanics and Virtual Reality Laboratories, Research & Development Section, Department of Rehabilitation
Walter Reed
Mentor Name
Brad Hendershot, Ph.D.
Christopher Dearth, Ph.D.
Mentor Telephone
Biomedical Engineering Summer Internship Program
Mentor Name
Robert Lutz, Ph. D.
Laboratory And Project Description

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) is the Flagship of the Military Health System with the mission of ensuring patient-friendly access to high quality health care for all we are privileged to serve, while setting the standard in Readiness, Education and Research. As the world's largest military medical center - located on more than 243 acres, with more than 2.4 million square feet of clinical space, providing care and services to over 1 million beneficiaries per year - WRNMMC is comprised of nearly 8,500 dedicated staff members who make it their daily mission to move toward a new horizon in health care - one that offers synergy and revolutionary collaboration.

Within the Department of Rehabilitation at WRNMMC, the Biomechanics and Virtual Reality Laboratories primarily focus on aspects of rehabilitation after extremity trauma or amputation. In particular, we use optical motion capture and force platforms to measure kinematic and kinetic data during human movement; integrated measurements of muscle (EMG) and/or brain (EEG) activity can supplement such evaluations. Additionally, the CAREN system - composed of a 6 degree-of-freedom motion platform, instrumented treadmill, and a 180-degree curved screen - allows patients to interact with virtual environments, for the purposes of evaluating and/or training gait, posture, and other aspects of human movement.

Access to these state-of-the-art technologies, coincident to our location within a clinical facility, allows us to support investigations that span both basic science and with more direct clinical applications. Recently, our work aims to better understand longer-term musculoskeletal complications following limb loss (e.g., low back pain and osteoarthritis), conditions that are reported at rates much higher than the general population, and likely influenced by various biomechanical mechanisms related to altered gait and movement characteristic of this population. These secondary complications are especially concerning for service members with limb loss, as they typically undergo amputation at a young age and therefore will live with a pronounced and progressively increasing risk for many years. Thus, in 2018, projects/topics available to prospective BESIP interns include biomechanically driven investigations under that general theme, depending on personal background and interests:

  1. Characterize relationships between trunk motion, coordination, and spinal loading with lower limb loss during activities of daily living.
  2. Develop virtual-reality based biofeedback for enhancing rehabilitation while mitigating risk for secondary musculoskeletal injuries (i.e., controlling joint motions or loads).
  3. Evaluate the influences of novel prosthetic and orthotic technologies on human movement and functional outcomes.

Essential to all of these are a basic understanding of mechanics and experience with computer programming (e.g., MATLAB). In addition to learning human movement science and biomechanical research, the intern will also be exposed to other aspects of physical medicine and rehabilitation, including physical/occupational therapy, prosthetics/orthotics, and other related sub-disciplines. For more information about our lab(s) or topic areas described above, please contact Dr. Hendershot by email.