Menu Close

Pediatric NeuroRecovery Research

The Importance of Research in Children

According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health, “…children are not little adults. But without research in children themselves, we have no choice but to treat them that way.”

Program Officer of the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences, Victoria Pemberton, RNC, MS, CCRC, states that “We need to continue to do research in children to protect them, to improve outcomes, to enhance quality of life, and to make them ultimately healthier adults.” She enumerates reasons why research in children is so important:

  • Children’s brains and neuromusculoskeletal systems are actively developing and therefore behave and respond differently than do those of adult’s
  • There is a lack of evidence by which to guide therapy decisions for children because medicines, devices, and treatments are often not tested in children
  • Research in children makes the statement to us as a society that children are important, that they are valued, and that health is important to us

One parent, when considering enrolling her child into one of our research studies, said to her child, “We hope that this helps you, but if not, we hope that it can help another young boy or girl.” This parent is teaching her child the true meaning of altruism. Kids really do get the message.

Get comprehensive information about children and clinical studies.

Locomotor Training

Locomotor Training
Kyle Bartolini at age 4.

Locomotor training, the therapy that we provide to your child today to advance recovery, was developed based on the work of both neuroscientists and clinical scientists. The neuroscientists wanted to understand the role of the spinal cord, if any, in controlling locomotion or walking. They determined that the spinal cord was in fact “smart” and highly responsive to sensory inputs (cues and information provided through sensation) and repetitive training. Similar to the brain, the spinal cord could learn through repetitive, yet a very specific type, and amount of practice. Combined with the inherent plasticity of a developing child’s nervous and musculoskeletal systems, activity-dependent plasticity is a key component of locomotor training in the clinic and at home.

These scientific findings laid the foundation for the development of locomotor training–the first activity-based therapy–changing the trajectory of outcomes for children affected by paralysis and their families. This close partnership among scientists and clinicians is at the heart of our ability to effectively and rapidly advance science into hope for recovery.

Kyle Bartolini Locomotor Training
Kyle Bartolini age 14.
Photo: Alton Strupp/The Courier-Journal

We have a comprehensive and aggressive research program aimed at achieving a new era of rehabilitation and hope for recovery in children with paralysis. There is an urgency to advance the effectiveness of our therapies, document short- and long-term effects, and develop new therapies so that children, once paralyzed, are able to more actively participate in their world and be spared surgeries, scoliosis, and hospitalizations.

Today, Kyle is an active teenager who can get around with crutches or a walker and loves to fish, swim, kayak and play paintball.

Read the Complete Article on Kyle’s progress.

Pediatric NeuroRecovery Research Lab

The new Pediatric NeuroRecovery Research Lab, known as “Discovery Cove,” will be used to:

  • Examine ‘proof-of-principle’ for activity-based therapies,
  • Assess the  impact of change in sensory inputs (e.g., treadmill speed and body weight load), and
  • Identify immediate effect of EMG output on muscles in children with and without injury.

Crawford Scholar Fellowship

The Todd Crawford Foundation (TCF) to Cure Paralysis generously provides funds to support Crawford Scholars. The purpose of the TCF is to raise money and awareness for spinal cord injury research. In addition to donations, TCF holds a variety of charitable events throughout the year to raise funds to support research programs affiliated with the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center (KSCIRC) at the University of Louisville. Individuals eligible to be designated Crawford Scholars are physical therapy students, occupational therapy students, graduate or undergraduate students, medical students or postdoctoral fellows who are supported with research fellowships in the Pediatric NeuroRecovery Program.

Crawford Scholar fellowships are awarded to students for the term of a semester (fall, spring, summer) to contribute to research activities or a project that supports the mission of the Pediatric NeuroRecovery Program and enhances the academic achievement and career growth of the student. The maximum fellowship awarded for a Crawford Scholar per term is $3,000. Funds may be used to support compensation, tuition, supplies, equipment or travel to present research.

Download the Crawford Scholar Application.

Our Partners in Research

Kosair for KidsKosair for Kids is funding the Kosair for Kids Center for Pediatric NeuroRecovery at the University of Louisville. The Center provides a hub to 1.) deliver state-of-the-art activity-based therapies to affected children with neurological disorders to promote recovery and enhance their quality of life, 2.) train therapists, physicians and researchers, and 3.) conduct ground-breaking research to provide the foundation for clinical decision-making, refinement, and development of novel therapies to promote neuromuscular recovery and achievement of developmentally-appropriate skills in children.



Craig H. Neilsen FoundationThe mission of the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation is to improve the quality of life for those living with spinal cord injury and to support scientific exploration for effective therapies and treatments leading to a cure. The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation is funding the development of a new pediatric neuromuscular recovery scale for spinal cord injury.





Todd Crawford FoundationThe purpose of the Todd Crawford Foundation (TCF) is to raise money and awareness for spinal cord injury (SCI)

research. TCF supports Crawford Kids, a fund that provides additional financial help for families for their child’s participation in annual follow-up research evaluations. TCF also funds Crawford Scholars, Physical Therapy, Medical, graduate and undergraduate students, who are supported with research fellowships in the Pediatric NeuroRecovery Laboratory.

Learn more about our team.

The Kosair for Kids Center for
Pediatric NeuroRecovery

Recovery-Based Therapies:
Clinical Program

About Being Here

Pediatric NeuroRecovery Research

Pediatric Research Studies

Participating in Research

Publications – Pediatric

Meet Our Team

Ways To Help

Professional Opportunities

Contact Us For Pediatrics