The Burke-Blythedale Restorative Neurology Program
There is an urgent need for research in pediatric neurorehabilitation, because there are few effective therapies and many children with neurological impairments. The goal of the research is to translate advances in basic neuroscience made at the Burke Medical Research Institute into improved treatment for children with neurological impairments at Blythedale Children's Hospital. The organizing scientific principle of the research program is the use of patterned neural activity - generated by training or electrical stimulation - to make weak brain connections stronger. This approach uses a fundamental characteristic of the nervous system - its function is improved with goal-directed experience - to repair it. Activity-based therapies are intended to strengthen the brain circuits spared by injury or disease so that they can improve the functions lost with damage. In this paradigm, therapy is directed not toward a specific functional goal (i.e. buttoning a shirt), but toward the brain circuits that create the action, in a safe and efficacious way.
The research program is organized around neurological impairments; Blythedale patients have a variety of impairments in movement, sensation, and attention. Since there is no dominant neurological disease in children, organizing the program around impairments allows the program to address important needs no matter what their disease or injury. In addition, the brain is organized according to functional systems (e.g. movement and vision), allowing the fundamental understanding of the brain to be applied to patients. Programs targeting impairments have been prioritized based on the needs of patients and their families and the skills of researchers and clinicians involved in the program.
At present, we have 3 programs:
, which is loss of arm and hand movement on one side of the body,
These programs are described in detail in the linked pages.
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