The World's First and Only Ability Labs - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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Ability Labs

RIC has more researchers on staff than any other rehabilitation provider.

“By the time studies appear in the literature, the information is no longer current.

Here, through our day-to-day interactions with researchers, we have the opportunity to start implementing findings immediately after they are proven beneficial.”
– Nicole Williams, Physical Therapist

The World's First and Only Ability Labs

RIC's new Ability Lab

The Ability Labs will be our big experiment on the world stage — the centerpiece of our revolutionary translational model which will change forever how patients participate in and benefit from rehabilitation. There will simply be no more visible place in the Institute. The eyes of the world will be upon us.

The Ability Labs will be where cures happen. They will be the powerful draw for patients to cross oceans and surmount hardship. They represent our big bet — investing in the world’s best medical, clinical and research talent, as well as in designing and creating a hub where patients will guide teams of physicians and scientists in real time during therapy to solve their problems and amplify their level of function or “ability.” No more years and years between science and trial, or between genius and recovery. No more therapy gyms!

These Labs will be our gems — and what others will not be able to copy. One of these gems could bear your name and showcase your prescience and generosity. Far from the standard concept of a traditional “lab,” each Ability Lab will be stunning to look at and work in, and even more stunning for its state-of-the art technology and equipment. With floor-to-ceiling glass walls that showcase Chicago’s beautiful Lake Michigan, each Lab will follow in the great Chicago tradition of creating awe-inspiring architecture as art. Just being in the space will be an experience second only to what will be happening in it . . . and what will be happening because of it.

The AbilityLab® will feature five Labs, each with a different function or focus of ability — Think & Speak, Arm & Hand, Legs & Walking, Strength & Endurance, and Pediatrics.

The Arm & Hand Lab

Serving More Patients and Advancing Patient Ability

Located on floors 23-24 of The AbilityLab, the Arm & Hand Lab is designed for patients who would benefit from a stimulating and robust environment in pursuit of complex hand skills. This Lab will link two stories that are connected by a central, therapeutic staircase. The Arm & Hand Lab will care for patients with diagnoses affecting the brain and higher levels of the spinal cord. 

The Legs & Walking Lab

Located on Floors 21-22, the main focus the Legs & Walking Lab will be on body-weight support and large motor and rhythmic limb functions that are influenced by both spinal cord and brain circuits. In this Lab, therapeutic intervention will make use of anti-gravity support and weight-bearing assistive devices. The focus of intervention will be on trunk and pelvis stability, positioning and control of the hips, knees and ankles, as well as stepping and propulsion.

RIC rehabilitation patients walk more!

In the Legs & Walking Lab, use of robots, various smart devices, electrical stimulation and emerging technologies will be extensive. We will pursue new therapies, such as the application of biological materials and pharmacological and other therapies specific to neural action — which together promise the most exciting and hopeful advances available to enhance locomotion, gait and walking. 

The Strength & Endurance Lab

Located on floors 19-20, the Strength & Endurance Lab will focus primarily on the integration and processes related to how nerves and muscles function individually, as well as on how they interact with the skeletal system according to the neural signals coming from the brain and spinal cord. Applied disciplines provide the foundation for the structural, kinematic and dynamic evaluation of how patients move. The Strength & Endurance Lab will have a strong biological, neural engineering, and physiotherapeutic basis. Clinical trials and human-subject research will focus on the facilitation of patients’ neurologic, muscle, bone and joint repair and recovery. 

A Sample of Current Research Projects Underway
  • Constraint Induced Language Therapy for Inpatients With Aphasia
    Brown Fellowship
    Julie Carpenter, MA, CCC-SLP
    Leora Cherney, PhD, BC-ANCDS, CCC-SLP
  • Enriched Environment to Improve Outcomes in Patients with Stroke
    HBB Project
    T. George Hornby, PT, PhD and Locomotor Recovery Laboratory
    Jennifer Smith, MA, CCC-SLP and 9th floor Physical Therapy team
    Nicole Sedam, MS, OTR/L and 8th floor Physical Therapy team
  • Evaluating FT-WREX to Improve Functional Outcomes During UE Therapy
    Richard Harvey, MD
    Meghan Buell, OTR/L
  • The Feasibility of High Repetition, Task Oriented Training in the Inpatient Rehabilitation Setting
    Buchanan Fellowship
    Kim Waddell, MS, OTR/L
    George Hornby, PT, PhD
  • In-Bed Robotic Rehabilitation in Acute Stroke
    Li-Qun Zhang, PhD
  • The Role of Uncertainty in Human Motor Learning and Adaptation (Parkinson’s)
    Konrad Kording, PhD
  • Intensive Gait Training to Improve Community Ambulation After Stroke
    Locomotion Lab
    T. George Hornby, PhD, PT
  • Mechanisms Underlying Locomotor Recovery After Step Training in Spinal Cord Injury
    Maria Knikou, PhD, PT
    CK Mummidisetty, MS
  • Pharmacological-Robotic Interventions to Promote Functional Recovery in SCI
    Mehdi Mirbagheri, PhD