What We Do

Focus Areas

Research at MRRI has an international reputation for excellence. Our work is primarily conducted in three focus areas:

Cognitive Neuroscience and Cognitive Rehabilitation

How do stroke, brain trauma and other diseases of the central nervous system disrupt cognitive functions such as language, attention, planning, action, and problem solving? What parts of the brain are critical for these abilities? MRRI researchers address such questions with cutting-edge behavioral and neuroanatomical techniques, and develop innovative treatment approaches to cognitive and language problems. Through collaborations that span MRRI’s focus areas, we explore research topics such as delineating shared representations that support both the control of movement and language.

Traumatic Brain Injury Treatments and Outcomes

What are the factors that affect recovery from traumatic brain injury (TBI)? What are the most effective ways to treat the functional consequences of these injuries? Researchers at MRRI study recovery across the spectrum from disorders of consciousness to long-term effects of TBI within the family and community. As well as developing ways to measure and predict outcomes, MRRI researchers develop and test innovative treatments for the cognitive, emotional, and psychosocial effects of TBI.   Our collaborations across focus areas allow us to pursue such topics as the effects of medications in multiple neurologic populations and the use of sophisticated imaging techniques to understand both focal and diffuse brain damage.

Movement Science and Mobility Rehabilitation

How are movements planned and executed in healthy individuals, and how are movements impaired by injury or disease? How are new movements relearned after injury or disease and what are the neuroanatomical changes from such relearning? MRRI researchers address such questions to help recovery of upper and lower extremity motor skills in individuals with neurologic injury and amputation. Using cutting-edge neuroimaging and neurostimulation techniques in conjunction with kinematic movement analyses, MRRI researchers search for principles to guide effective rehabilitation. Collaborations across MRRI’s focus areas enable us to address the movement difficulties experienced by individuals with stroke as well as TBI.

MRRI Core Facilities

Scientists at MRRI have expertise in a broad array of methodological approaches used in neurorehabilitation research. MRRI’s infrastructure supports the recruitment of research participants, and our Methodological Cores compile and maintain the tools, resources, and procedures that are used across MRRI’s 10 research laboratories and programs.

Brain Structure & Function Core:

The Brain Structure and Function Core provides centralized resources, protocols, technical information, and methods for neuroimaging (including structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging), electrical stimulation, and electroencephalography across MRRI labs to optimize organization and efficiency. Current documentation includes:

  • A database tracking progress in obtaining imaging and lesion segmentation of MRRI research participants
  • Detailed scanning protocols across Penn and Jefferson sites
  • Lesion mask files
Measurement Methodological Core:

The Measurement core maintains a shared resource library that documents assessments and assessment resources (e.g., databanks such as AphasiaBank) across content areas. Available documentation includes:

  • Domain(s)/sub-domains assessed
  • Appropriate population(s)
  • Standardization and psychometric information
  • Published benchmarks for change
  • Instrument availability
Motion Analysis Core:

The Motion Analysis Core oversees specialized equipment shared across MRRI laboratories, used in studies to understand how the nervous system controls and learns movements and how damage to specific brain structures impairs these processes. These resources include:

  • Two systems for precise 3-dimensional optical motion capture (Codamotion, Vicon) and a system for magnetic motion capture (NDI trakSTAR) for cases where optical tracking is unsuitable.
  • Two virtual reality devices (Oculus Rift S, Oculus Quest 2) that can be integrated with optical or magnetic motion capture using custom-developed software, which permits the study of visual integration in movement control.
  • Two robotic devices (KINARM Bimanual Exoskeleton, ARMEO Power) to allow additional investigation of somatosensory and haptic influences on movement control.
  • Eye tracking systems (Eyelink 1000, Pupil Labs) to monitor gaze position while individuals are viewing stimuli and generating movement or to study the control of eye movements in their own right.
  • Three electromyography systems: two wired (CED, Motion Labs) and one wireless (Delsys Trigno) which can be used to simultaneously record muscle activation while tasks are performed using the motion capture or robotic equipment.
MRRI Virtual Reality Core:

This shared facility provides the infrastructure to support experiments conducted using virtual reality. Available equipment includes:

  • two head-mounted virtual-reality systems (Vive, HTC and Oculus Quest, Oculus) each with two hand-held controllers and associated optical tracking system.
  • a magnetic tracking system (TrakSTAR, Ascension Technologies).
  • an optical hand-tracking system (Leap Motion.
  • an integrated eye-tracking system (Pupil Labs).
  • a dedicated PC running custom-written software in Unity.