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UT Arlington engineers lead $1 million NSF project to develop personalized iRehab system

Monday, September 23, 2013

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A UT Arlington multidisciplinary team will lead a three-year, $1 million National Science Foundation grant project to develop iRehab, a smart rehabilitation system that can adapt and personalize therapy programs based on a patient’s needs and constraints.

Fillia Makedon, a Jenkins-Garrett distinguished professor and chair of the Computer Science and Engineering Department, will lead the research effort “MRI (Major Research Instrumentation) Collaborative: Development of iRehab, an Intelligent Closed-Loop Instrument for Adaptive Rehabilitation.” Makedon also is director of the UT Arlington Heracleia Human Centered Computing Lab, where the primary research will take place.

Fillia Makeon

Fillia Makedon, chair of the Computer Science & Engineering Department.

The highly competitive NSF award only allows each university three applicants each year. The project team includes UT Arlington, Boston University and Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital. About $800,000 will fund UT Arlington’s portion of the project, with the remaining $200,000 awarded to Boston University.

“At its essence, the project is an intelligent, learning rehabilitation system,” Makedon said. “It’s collects multisensory data while a person is engaged in rehabilitation, and produces the best possible rehabilitation program guidelines for a patient.”

The multidisciplinary nature of the research led UT Arlington to assemble a team that includes Heng Huang and Vassilis Athitsos, both associate professors of computer science and engineering; Robert Gatchel psychology professor; and Mario Romero-Ortega, associate professor of bioengineering.

Khosrow Behbehani, dean of the College of Engineering, said the project capitalizes on the strength of a major national research university – the ability to pull together top faculty talent from multiple disciplines to advance innovation.

“The iRehab project, led by Dr. Makedon, will advance the field of adaptive rehabilitation and lead to better results for those recovering from injury or medical procedures,” Behbehani said. “UT Arlington is pleased to have secured NSF support for this important, multidisciplinary project.”

The iRehab tool evaluates a patient’s physical, emotional and mental constraints during the rehabilitation period. A physical therapist or physician can enter the patient’s prescription drug history, diet record and other types of input that may change over time to suggest a therapy program best suited to the patient’s needs.

“This could help people who suffer from traffic accidents, battlefield injuries, a stroke or other chronic condition and need continuous rehabilitation,” Makedon said. “The long-term information collected from the patient and from the caregivers would feed into this system, causing therapy regimens to change and adjust automatically.”

Makedon said iRehab will use modular, multi-sensor, multi-actuator robotic devices that integrate and analyze sensor data collected from an individual's physiological performance, cognitive ability and brain activity, while the person is engaged in physical therapy or rehabilitation.

“This not only makes rehabilitation treatment more effective, but also helps the clinician better understand a patient’s needs, thus personalizing medicine and health care,” she said. “It makes treatment decisions based on quantitative data and helps the medical experts gain a better understanding of the impact of rehabilitation on the person’s heath. It can also provide remote monitoring support, if needed.”

The iRehab project is representative of the innovation under way at The University of Texas at Arlington, a comprehensive research institution of more than 33,300 students and more than 2,200 faculty members in the heart of North Texas. It is the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. Visit to learn more.


The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.