Skip to main content

Rehabilitation Research

Rehab-SignThe University of Maryland Rehabilitation Research Center, directed by Dr. Peter Gorman, was originally conceived in 2005 as a collaborative effort between Kernan Hospital (now UM Rehab), the UM School of Medicine, and the VA Maryland Healthcare System. It has been generously supported by seed money from the Kernan Endowment Board.

Specialized and advanced research programs have been developed in stroke and spinal cord injury rehabilitation, and future work in traumatic brain injury rehabilitation is under development. This work occurs both UM Rehab and at the VA Maryland Healthcare System. Focus for much of the work has been in exercise and robotic rehabilitation for people with various neurologic conditions. Additional interests of affiliated faculty members are behavioral neurology and the functional basis for neurologic recovery.


Stroke Rehabilitation:

MERCE-LogoOriginally established by Dr. Richard Macko and now directed by Dr. George Wittenberg, MERCE is a VA Center whose mission is to:

  • Develop novel exercise and robotics therapies to improve lower and upper extremity motor function, cardiovascular fitness, and health
  • Perform mechanistic studies of brain plasticity, muscle biology, cardiovascular, and mental health within these novel rehabilitation therapies to understand how they provide health benefits. Apply this knowledge along with advances in rehabilitation technology and robotics engineering toward the design of even more effective therapies.
  • Foster community outreach
  • Provide study enrollment opportunities for Veterans and non-Veterans.

Research work centers on the following four areas:

  • Cardiovascular Health Exercise and Strength Training in Stroke & Neurological Conditions
  • Brain Physiology
  • Robot-Assisted Neurological Training in Stroke & Other Neurological Conditions
  • Wellness & Community-Centered Programs in Stroke & Other Neurological Conditions

Within the Center, Dr. Michael Dimyan is looking to predict the response to upper extremity robotic rehabilitation using functional MRI and techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation.


Dr. George Wittenberg is looking into how practice in daily life tasks after robotic rehabilitation might improve functional outcomes. His currently recruiting clinical trial information can be found on this web link: Neurophysiological and Kinematic Predictors of Response in Chronic Stroke.


‌Drs. Richard Macko, Anindo Roy, Larry Forrester and Glenn Kehs are applying robotic principles to the lower extremity using a device called the “Anklebot”.  This device has been shown to improve walking in acute stroke rehabilitation, and has the potential to provide improvement in voluntary ankle control better than existing rehabilitation techniques.

Here is a link to the current ankle robot clinical trial entitled “Ankle Robot to Reduce Foot-Drop in Chronic Stroke.”

Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Research:

Spinal cord injury rehabilitation research at the UM Rehab has focused on both cardiovascular fitness and functional improvement using techniques of robotic rehabilitation and aquatic therapy.  Drs. Peter Gorman, Henry York and Paula Geigle have shown that exercise using a robotic treadmill training device called the Lokomat can improve cardiovascular fitness in people with chronic motor incomplete spinal cord injury. In conjunction with the Shepard Center in Atlanta, the group has also shown that aquatic therapy can also provide similar cardiovascular effects.


earNeuropathic pain is a major problem in individuals with spinal cord injury.  Our research center at UM Rehab has collaborated with the Center for Integrative Medicine and has completed a pilot study showing that a specialized type of auricular acupuncture using semi-permanent needles that stay in the ear for a week can improve pain control in chronic spinal cord injured people.

Rehab-Research03Our most recent ongoing research work has been on the use of an exoskeletal device called ReWalk to potentially improve mobility, bowel function and cardiometabolic profiles in persons with spinal cord injury. This work is sponsored by the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program and is being done in conjunction with the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx, NY.

More details can be found on the website by clicking the following link:

Exoskeletal-assisted Walking to Improve Mobility, Bowel Function and Cardio-Metabolic Profiles in Persons With SCI.

Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation Research:

Dr. Eugenio Rocksmith, co-director of the Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program, is about to join a multicenter clinical trial on the safety and efficacy of a novel pharmacologic medication for the treatment of neurobehavioral disinhibition in outpatients with traumatic brain injury. Please check back for updates on this planned work.

Neuropsychology Research:


Lynn M. Grattan, PhD, the Director of the Neuropsychological Diagnostic and Research Laboratory at the UMSOM, performs research focusing on identifying and protecting coastal residents and seafood consumers from some of the neuropsychological or related problems that occur in our changing environment.

Grattan-Image01These problems may be triggered by chemical, non-chemical, or environmental toxin exposures as well as disaster events such as hurricane, flood, or oil spill.  The increased understanding of these impacts on health, such as increased stress, environmental anxiety,  memory, or other cognitive or neurologic difficulties is used to drive prevention and early intervention activities and guide regulatory policy in the United States and worldwide.

Related Faculty