The goal of this proposal is to attain support for a new Interdisciplinary Graduate Education in Movement and Rehabilitation Sciences (IGE-MRS) program, created at Northwestern University between the department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences (PTHMS) and the Biomedical, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science departments. The mission of the IGE-MRS program is to expose students to a graduate education that combines engineering, neurobiology and physical therapy and human movement sciences course work along with the associated research experiences through a DPT (Doctor in Physical Therapy) - PhD (Engineering) dual degree. The proposed IGE-MRS program is the first program of its kind to combine a solid training in fundamental neurobiology and clinical physical therapy with solid training in engineering disciplines. This interdisciplinary training will allow the development of the scientific basis required for understanding the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying movement disorders and for designing effective rehabilitation interventions. The training program will focus on the neurobiology of movement and rehabilitation sciences, with three main goals: 1) understanding the neurobiology of movement behavior and disorders, 2) identifying and addressing the need for quantitative methods and technologies in MRS and 3) applying this knowledge to the development and implementation of effective rehabilitation interventions based on a solid understanding of current state-of-the-art rehabilitation practices. Northwestern University has a long and recognized history in the study of motor control, motor disability and recovery, and neural reorganization. Extensive research is performed in these areas at various levels, from basic animal and human studies focused on the control of movement and movement disorders to the development of novel rehabilitation interventions that address these movement disorders. This research has been conducted mainly through collaborations among individual investigators but not at the interdepartmental level. The interdisciplinary nature of the DPT-PhD program will provide an ideal environment for close interactions between basic and applied sciences and clinical departments. It will therefore provide a unique opportunity for training in translational research, going from the laboratory to the bedside. We intend to support a total of 2 DPT-PhD students in year 1 of the training program, 4 in year 2 and a total of 6 trainees in subsequent years. The program will provide support for a total of three years for each trainee.
The number of individuals with movement disabilities continues to increase with a clear impact on the need for developing more effective rehabilitation interventions. The proposed graduate program will train rehabilitation/clinical scientists based on solid fundamental neurobiology principles combined with engineering to allow them to establish research programs to develop effective rehabilitation interventions and more importantly, transfer them to the clinic.
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