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Feb 20 2013

NYIT Researchers to Use New Robot in Parkinson's Studies

Old Westbury, N.Y.  (February 20, 2012)  ̶ The College of Osteopathic Medicine’s newest technological addition will help NYIT researchers probe the intricacies of upper limb coordination and may lead to improved rehabilitation techniques for Parkinson’s disease patients.

Dr. Isaac Kurtzer, an assistant professor in biomedical sciences, will use the new robot, called the KINARM Bi-Exoskeleton, to study the how the brain contends with the complex mechanics of elbow and shoulder motion.  The machine’s arm rests are smooth, moveable platforms that will allow Kurtzer and his team to investigate the fast corrective responses of patients’ joints after a sudden push or force is applied. As patients perform video game-like tasks, the robot collects sensory, motor, and cognitive data to help decode the brain’s signals to the arms.

“To properly understand what the nervous system is doing and how it controls the arm, you need to look at the coordination of several joints,” says Kurtzer. “By examining the reflexes to multi-joint motion, we can better identify changes in the overall stability of a person.”

Kurtzer’s previous studies, including one published in Nature, revealed that healthy subjects have “smart reflexes”   ̶  sensory-based corrections within 1/20th of a second that allow for coordinated control of the entire limb. Extending his research model to individuals with Parkinson’s disease may help identify the deficiencies that lead to instability. The study could also result in the development of more precise rehabilitation methods or new therapies that improve movement and balance for Parkinson’s patients. He is collaborating on the project with William Werner, PT, Ed.D., who has conducted numerous balance and gait studies on Parkinson’s patients at NYIT’s Adele Smithers Parkinson’s Disease Treatment Center.

Comparisons of patients on medication with those who do not take medicine may yield findings that help evaluate the effect of drugs on arm reflexes. The study will also include tests on control subjects of the same age as patients with Parkinson’s disease as well as comparisons between right- and left-arm reflexes on each subject.

The robot is the only one of its kind in the Northeast and is funded in part with a $100,000 grant from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Kurtzer hopes initial findings will serve as a foundation for additional studies to investigate the role of the brain structure known as basal ganglia in coordinating arm reflexes.

About NYIT
New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) offers 90 degree programs, including undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees, in more than 50 fields of study, including architecture and design; arts and sciences; education; engineering and computing sciences; health professions; management; and osteopathic medicine. A non-profit independent, private institution of higher education, NYIT has 14,000 students attending campuses on Long Island and Manhattan, online, and at its global campuses. NYIT sponsors 11 NCAA Division II programs and one Division I team.
Led by President Edward Guiliano, NYIT is guided by its mission to provide career-oriented professional education, offer access to opportunity to all qualified students, and support applications-oriented research that benefits the larger world. To date, more than 92,000 graduates have received degrees from NYIT. For more information, visit

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