UofL spinal cord injury researcher delivers national physical therapy group lecture


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Andrea L. Behrman, Ph.D., was selected to give the Maley Lecture at the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) in Charlotte, N.C., on June 13. The lecture honors a physical therapist that has made distinguished contributions to the profession of physical therapy in clinical practice.

    Behrman is a professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery and Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center at the University of Louisville and is currently examining neuromuscular recovery in children with spinal cord injuries via both research and clinical practice. She also is a licensed physical therapist and is a Fellow of the American Physical Therapy Association.

    Behrman’s lecture was titled, “I never thought that I would need to child-proof my home!” and focused on a paradigm shift for rehabilitation from the traditional view that “paralysis cannot be resolved” to an evidence-based physiological perspective that, with training, “paralysis can be resolved” and recovery is possible — to what degree has yet to be determined. As the mother whose comments inspired the lecture’s title said, “after locomotor training, my child became so mobile that I needed to child-proof my home” — something she never thought she would need to be concerned about.

    Researchers have demonstrated that the spinal cord is in fact smart and that it can learn, Behrman said. By providing specific sensory input via intense training, therapists can activate the spinal circuitry and the neuromuscular system below and across the level of the injury.

    Using a method known as “activity-based locomotor training,” therapists provide specific sensory information while patients are standing and walking on a treadmill with partial body weight support. Trainers also provide manual cues to promote muscle activation. Behrman demonstrated the benefits of locomotor training for developing trunk control and stepping in children who suffered a spinal cord injury when they were as young as 5 months and were paralyzed for nearly three years.

    As director of the University of Louisville Kosair Charities Center for Pediatric Neurorecovery, Behrman and her fellow researchers and clinical partners work to change outcomes for children recovering from paralysis while undergoing locomotor training.

    More information about Behrman’s lecture and work at UofL is available on the American Physical Therapy Association website.