UF Brooks Center for Rehabilitation Studies celebrates grand opening of Jacksonville human performance laboratory

A newly opened Jacksonville-based human performance laboratory, provides the University of Florida and Brooks Health System with some of today’s most comprehensive human movement technology and equipment.

The Human Performance Laboratory enhances the UF Brooks Center for Rehabilitation Studies’ efforts to develop innovative treatments for stroke and spinal cord injury, falls in the elderly, Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain and traumatic brain injury.

Made possible by a $1.2 million gift from the Brooks Health System to support staff salaries and equipment, the lab is located at the Brooks Health System’s rehabilitation facility in Jacksonville.

“We recognized that our organizationwide support of applied research in the area of rehabilitation treatment could one day be of profound service to mankind,” said J. Brooks Brown, M.D., founder and chairman of Brooks Health. “Taking medical treatment to this level of innovation can only result in improved outcomes for patients, better access to rehabilitation treatment and lower treatment costs.”

In 1999, Brooks Health, a provider of inpatient and outpatient physical rehabilitation at sites in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia, donated $2.5 million to establish the Brooks Center for Rehabilitation Studies in conjunction with the UF College of Health Professions. The gift was eligible for matching funds, raising the total to $5 million.

“With the application of the Brooks Health System gift, we are taking a hugely important step in the testing of rehabilitation therapies,” said Robert Frank, Ph.D., dean of the college. “The Human Performance Lab will greatly enhance the translation of science into daily clinical practice.”

Access to a large population of rehabilitation patients from the Brooks Health System allows researchers to recruit many subjects for clinical trials, a resource that is not available to most movement research centers and a necessity for establishing evidence-based rehabilitation principles, said Steve Kautz, Ph.D., director of the Human Performance Lab and an investigator with the Brain Rehabilitation Research Center at the Malcom Randall Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Gainesville.

“In the past, rehabilitation studies have had difficulty coming up with precise measurements of recovery,” said Kautz, also an associate professor of physical therapy. “With the lab’s equipment and staff, we can provide more exact measurements so that we won’t just know that a therapy worked, we’ll know why it worked.”

The lab’s technology includes 3-D video analysis to track a patient’s limb movement; force plates to measure the force of a patient’s contact with the ground when walking; electromyography to determine the electrical activity of the muscles; and metabolic equipment to calculate how much energy is used by the muscles. A modified stationary bike, known as an ergometer, manipulates leg movements so that patients with impaired leg function can experience the sensations consistent with normal pedaling as they work to retrain injured limbs.

Additionally, the lab includes instruments that allow measurement of swallowing, respiration, voice and speech. Fiber-optic endoscopy examination permits viewing of the muscles of the throat and larynx during swallowing. Other instruments allow analysis of breathing muscles during speech.

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Jill Pease

Public Relations Director, College of Public Health and Health Professions

Jill Pease is the public relations director for the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions. She is responsible for developing public relations and communications strategies to promote the...Read More