Kinesiology Professor Awarded $296,000 Grant for Research to Aid Disabled

Dr. Jeff Nessler, an assistant professor in the kinesiology department, in collaboration with Dr. Moustafa Moustafa of Cal Poly Pomona, has been awarded a $296,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for research which will aid persons with spinal cord injuries.

The broad, long-term goals of this project are to modify and improve upon a novel robotic device for the training and evaluation of locomotion following spinal cord injury (SCI), and to investigate the effects of a robotic gait training algorithm on the preservation of specific aspects of lower limb muscle function.  This research has important implications for those living with spinal cord injury related disabilities.

Injury to the human spinal cord typically results in neurological impairment, which often leads to changes in muscle function due to extended periods of inactivity.  Changes in the properties of skeletal muscle are important considerations for the rehabilitation of a patient’s ability to walk following SCI, because they are directly related to the control and execution of movement, and may present limitations to training techniques intended to promote neural plasticity and recovery. 

Currently, much remains unknown regarding the role of gait training and the preservation of muscle function following periods of inactivity, as well as the molecular mechanisms that underlie this recovery.  Therefore, a need exists for research that can better inform the development of rehabilitation strategies that promote the preservation of muscle function following SCI.  This project is specifically designed to address this need by providing a novel training paradigm and tool for the assessment of muscle and neurological function following SCI. 

Dr. Nessler joined the kinesiology faculty as an assistant professor in 2008 after receiving a B.S. in sports medicine from Pepperdine University, a M.S. in kinesiology (biomechanics) from San Diego State University, and a M.S. and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of California Irvine. 

The broad, long term goals of this project are to modify and improve upon a novel robotic device for the training and evaluation of locomotion following spinal cord injury (SCI), and to investigate the effects of a robotic gait training algorithm on the preservation of specific aspects of lower limb muscle function.