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Dr. George Mochizuki, Scientist with the Brain Sciences Program at Sunnybrook Research Institute

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A research program exploring the use of the KINARM™, a robotic virtual-reality device that assesses sensory, motor, and cognitive function in people with brain injuries, has been approved for $750,000 in funding by the Federal Economic Development Agency (FedDev), as part of a $10-million grant to the Ontario Brain Institute.

Dr. George Mochizuki, a Scientist with the Brain Sciences Program at Sunnybrook Research Institute, will receive $345,000 of that funding for his sub-project on the KINARM™, which will assess the effectiveness of BOTOX® injections and rehabilitation in stroke survivors with stiff or rigid muscles, a condition known as spasticity.  Dr. Stephen Scott, a collaborator from Queen's University, will lead a project collecting baseline data on healthy individuals.

"Spasticity is something that affects approximately 38% of stroke survivors within the first year after their stroke. We are trying to develop more sensitive measures to detect changes in upper limb function following the injection of BOTOX® into the affected muscles" says Dr. Mochizuki, who is also Core Member of the Heart and Stroke Foundation Centre for Stroke Recovery at Sunnybrook.

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The KINARM™ consists of two motorized exoskeleton robots, which simultaneously investigate movement of both arms.  The individual is then placed in front of a computer screen and interacts with the visual displays to complete a series of tasks when prompted, such as reaching and limb position matching. Data collected during these tasks will track changes in arm function over the course of treatment.

New tasks are being developed to improve assessment of spasticity.  "The data collected from these tests will provide us with the ability to detect subtle changes in spasticity, which allows for a more individualized treatment and rehabilitation plan for patients," says Dr. Mochizuki.

The FedDev funding for the KINARM™ project, which is matched by funding from industry partners Allergan Canada Inc. and BKIN Technologies Ltd., will be used to "hire personnel to assist with assessments, provide training opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and continue our research into improving our ability to measure and manage spasticity in people who have had a stroke," says Dr. Mochizuki.

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