2017 World Congress Program

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2017 World Congress Keynote Speakers

We are pleased to announce the confirmed line-up of Keynote Speakers for the 2017 World Congress.


Grégoire Courtine, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne 

Sunday: 17:00 – 18:00

Keynote: Locomotor Neuroprosthetics 

Grégoire Courtine was trained in Mathematics, Physics, and Neurosciences. He received his PhD degree in Experimental Medicine in France in 2003. After obtaining the Chancellor Award during his post-doctoral training at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), where he was also associate for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, he established his own laboratory at the University of Zurich in 2008. He received the Schellenberg Prize for his work in paraplegia and a prestigious fellowship from the European Research Council in 2009. In 2012, he became the International Paraplegic Foundation (IRP) chair in Spinal Cord Repair in the Center for Neuroprosthetics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (EPFL). Over the past 15 years, Grégoire and his team have implemented an unconventional research program with the aim to develop radically new treatment paradigms for spinal cord injury. The results of this research were recognized in various high-profile publications such as Science and Nature journals, and discussed extensively in national and international media. In 2013, he was invited to share his personal and scientific journey at TEDGlobal. In 2014, Grégoire launched his startup, G-Therapeutics, which aims to translate the medical and technological breakthroughs gained over the past 15 years into a treatment to accelerate and augment functional recovery after spinal cord injury.(http://courtine-lab.epfl.ch/) (https://www.ted.com/talks/gregoire_courtine_the_paralyzed_rat_that_walked)



Over the past decade, we developed a multipronged intervention that restored supraspinal control over leg movements in animal models of spinal cord injury. The intervention acts over two time windows. Immediately, electrochemical neuromodulation of spinal circuits enables motor control of the paralysed legs. In the long term, will-powered training regimens enabled by electrochemical neuromodulation and robotic assistance promote neuroplasticity of residual connections—an extensive rewiring that reestablishes voluntary control of movement. To identify the physiological principles underlying the therapeutic effects of this intervention, we used computational modelling, inactivation techniques and genetic manipulations. We found that our electrochemical neuromodulation therapy enables motor control through the modulation of muscle spindle feedback circuits. This framework steered the design of spatially selective spinal implants that specifically target these circuits to modulate muscle synergies responsible for flexion and extension of the legs. To reproduce the natural activation pattern of these muscle synergies during locomotion, we interfaced the leg motor cortex activity with electrochemical neuromodulation therapies in non-human primates. This wireless brain spinal interface instantly restored robust locomotor movements of a paralyzed leg in a non-human primate model of spinal cord injury. Preliminary clinical studies suggest that these concepts and technologies are directly translatable to therapeutic strategies to augment motor recovery after spinal cord injury in humans.


Susan L. Whitney, University of Pittsburgh

Monday: 13:30 – 14:30

Susan L. Whitney, PT, PhD, NCS, ATC, FAPTA received her PhD in motor development/motor learning from the University of Pittsburgh and her professional physical therapy education from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, USA. Currently, she is a professor in physical therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences within the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Therapy. Dr. Whitney has been a neurologic clinical specialist since 2001. She is the Program Director of the Centers for Rehab Services (CRS) Balance and Vestibular Rehabilitation Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. She has authored or coauthored over 110 articles on Medline and is currently engaged in research related to concussion, instrument development to predict recovery in persons with balance and vestibular disorders, and vibrotactile feedback in persons with balance disorders.



This session will demonstrate how clinician-scientists can work with experts in technology to improve the human experience with persons with balance and vestibular disorders.  A review of instruments that have been developed to provide care and measure the effectiveness of care for persons living with balance and vestibular disorders will be provided. In addition, the effectiveness of vestibular physical therapy will be described.


Steve H. Collins, Carnegie Mellon University

Tuesday: 13:30 – 14:30

Steven H. Collins is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, where he directs the Experimental Biomechatronics Laboratory and teaches courses on Design and Biomechatronics. His laboratory develops technology for gait rehabilitation and augmentation, with a focus on speeding and systematizing development using prosthesis and exoskeleton ‘emulators’. These versatile hardware systems allow rapid implementation of new ideas, controlled characterization of human response to device functionality, and new approaches to design and prescription involving online adaptation. Another focus is efficient autonomous devices, such as energy-recycling actuators based on electroadhesive clutches and exoskeletons that use no energy yet reduce the metabolic energy cost of human walking. Steve received his B.S. from Cornell University in 2002 and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 2008. He performed postdoctoral research at T.U. Delft. He has published in Science and Nature. He is a member of the scientific board of Dynamic Walking, a recipient of the ASB Young Scientist Award, an ICRA Best Medical Devices Paper winner, and was recently voted Mechanical Engineering Professor of the Year. )




Exoskeletons and active prostheses could improve mobility for hundreds of millions of people. However, two serious challenges must first be
overcome: we need ways of identifying what a device should do to benefit an individual user, and we need cheap, efficient hardware that can do it. In this talk, we will describe a new approach to the design of assistive devices, based on versatile emulator systems and algorithms that automatically customize assistance. We will discuss exoskeletons that use no energy themselves, yet reduce the energy cost of human walking, and efficient, electroadhesive actuators that could make wearable robots an order of magnitude cheaper and more efficient.
Finally, we will consider the implications of these technologies for clinical practice and commercial products.


Alice Nieuwboer, KU Leuven

Wednesday: 8:30 – 9:30

Alice Nieuwboer works as a full professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Leuven, teaching physiotherapy students in specialized subjects of neurological rehabilitation and evidence-based physiotherapy. She is head of the Neuromotor Rehabilitation research group and together with her team is working on several research programs which focus on the mechanisms of gait disturbances in Parkinson's disease (PD), including a prospective study on freezing of gait, combining gait and postural analyses with brain imaging. The group was the first to firmly establish the link between freezing of gait and freezing in other effectors of the motor system, and has since then published widely on this issue. Furthermore, Alice’s research team is engaged in motor learning-related work, investigating the effectiveness of writing practice and dual task gait training while offering and withdrawing motor feedback. Novel research themes include how non-invasive brain stimulation may boost neuroplasticity and whether brain dysfunction affects posture and gait control differentially in PD. Underlying all these studies is the question how motor dysfunction and recovery are intertwined in neurodegenerative disease and how this interaction imprints on the brain at the neurological systems level.



In the past 10 years, research in our laboratory has focused on investigating the behavioral and neuronal determinants of walking deficits in Parkinson’s disease (PD) and whether these problems can be overcome with neurorehabilitation. The role of the basal ganglia, as providing a stimulus filtering function and as a learning center of automaticity, is very much highlighted in the typical gait disorders of PD. Our work has shown that freezing of gait can be conceptualized as a loss of automatic spatiotemporal control, which culminates in an inability to release an intended motor response. We claim that this problem reflects a wider motor control disturbance, rather than just a gait deficit. We and others have also shown that freezing of gait is behaviorally complex as it is mediated by cognitive and emotional factors as well as by postural instability. At the neurological systems level, we demonstrated that freezing-related dual task performance was associated with decreased functional connectivity within the striatum and between the caudate and superior temporal lobe. Structurally, we found greater alterations in the cortico-striatal network in freezing than in non-freezing cohorts. This brings an interesting paradox to the fore namely that freezers are more impaired in the neural networks through which they can re-acquire motor skills and are less proficient in practice while switching between task demands. As a result, freezers show reduced early adaptation during motor learning and impaired late consolidation of motor memory. Furthermore, the impact of providing intermittent and continuous cues and feedback to restore the walking pattern is different in patients with and without freezing of gait. This points to the future agenda for gait research in PD. We suggest that developing easy-to-use biomarkers which herald the reaching of the freezing milestone in the disease evolution is a critical step forward to instigate timely and individualized training protocols. In addition, we anticipate that rehabilitation technology will play a major role in freezing prevention using wearable sensors to tap the remaining compensatory brain circuits. Future longitudinal studies need to address whether slowing down the severity of gait deficits can be achieved using these methods against the background of basal ganglia neurodegeneration.


Bill McIlroy, University of Waterloo

Thursday: 13:30 – 14:30

William (Bill) McIlroy is currently the Professor and Chair of the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. .  He is a Senior Scientist at the Sunnybrook site of the Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery and at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.   He completed is PhD in Biophysics and Neuroscience at the University of Guelph in 1991 under the supervision of Dr. John Brooke with a focus on neurophysiological mechanisms underlying modulation of spinal reflexes supporting the control of lower limbs.  Between 1992 and 1996 he trained as post-doctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Brain Maki at the Centre of Studies in Aging at the Sunnybrook Research Institute.  Under the guidance of Dr. Maki, he advanced an interest and expertise in the area of balance control.  During this time, he met Dr. Sandra Black who motivated a complementary interest in stroke recovery and facilitated the development of his skills in brain imaging.  His fundamental research involves advancing understanding of the neuromotor control of human balance and mobility to inform his translational work focused on advancing the assessment and rehabilitation strategies to improve mobility in older adults and those who have had a stroke.




The challenge and control of maintaining stability in humans can be uniquely influenced by our adaptations related to habitual bipedalism. Achieving effective and efficient stability control arises from a blend of anticipatory control and stimulus-evoked reactions. The latter will be the primary matter of attention for this presentation with specific focus on the remarkable complexity of the control of dynamic reactions to whole body instability.  The healthy neuromuscular control of such behavior exhibits a remarkable degree of flexibility that is dependent on a spectrum of sensory inputs (modality and somatotopy) and CNS transformations that result in elegant patterns of effector activity to achieve the essential precision in movement and force needed to regain stability.  While such sensorimotor transformations are themselves quite impressive, it the success in the face of the challenge of temporal urgency that truly distinguishes these reactions.  This presentation will review current understanding of the underlying neuromotor control of these critical reactions as well as the changes over the life-span.  Such understanding has implications for the approaches used to assess reactive control in clinical settings and the training techniques used to improve impaired control.  The discussion of clinical assessment and rehabilitation approaches will focus on current approaches as well the potential impact of new techniques and technologies.



2017 Key Dates

Registration Opens:

Early 2017

Late Breaking Abstracts:

March 13 - 27, 2017

Symposia Submissions:

Aug 1 - Sept 30, 2016

Oral & Poster Submissions:

Oct 3 - Dec 5, 2016

Pre-Congress Workshop Submissions:

Nov 15 - Dec 15, 2016

Awards Applications Open:

Oct 3, 2016 - Jan 9, 2017

Travel Award Submission Deadline:

April 15, 2017

Early Registration Deadline:

April 21, 2017

Accommodation cut off date:

May 26, 2017

Regular Registration Deadline:

June 5, 2017

2017 Congress Dates:

June 25 - 29, 2017

2017 Congress program at-a-glance (subject to change)