News Cycling Study Aims to Improve Movement of Children with Cerebral Palsy

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Dell Children's Medical Center and UT Austin Researchers Begin Study Recruitment

AUSTIN, Texas - (May 23, 2012) - Cycling training is an effective therapy for children with cerebral palsy, a type of brain injury that causes altered development in both children and adults. It is one of the most common movement disorders in children and impairs their ability to walk. image

Yet experts have found that young children with this condition can cycle, even if they are unable to walk, because cycling requires less balance.

Researchers at University of Texas at Austin, along with the pediatric neurosurgery department at Dell Children's Medical Center, want to take this evidence a step further by studying the specific muscle activity used in cycling that will produce long term strength results. They also hope to use the information to improve cerebral palsy treatment options.

While many children and adults with cerebral palsy rely on wheelchairs, experts encourage muscle strength development to prevent bone and muscle loss.

"We want to use this research to develop better cycling training programs that provide longer-lasting muscle strength for cerebral palsy patients," explained Dr. Patricia Aronin, Dell Children's pediatric neurosurgeon and investigator for the study. "Giving children with cerebral palsy the opportunity to cycle not only helps them physically, but it also helps increase their self-confidence..

The study will compare young children with cerebral palsy to those without the condition. A customized bicycle with torso support will be used for children who participate and are not able to walk independently. Electrodes with reflective markers are placed on various muscle groups. Using infrared cameras, researchers can determine which muscles are active and being used effectively during cycling. Cerebral palsy patients three to eight years old are being recruited for the study.

"Information attained from this study may help to improve the physical activity of cerebral palsy patients and, hence, their quality of life. Our research is focusing on young children because early intervention is key to lowering the risk of bone loss," said Dr. Jody L. Jensen, director of the Developmental Motor Control Laboratory University of Texas.

The cycling study is taking place in the kinesiology lab located at the Darrel K. Royal Memorial University of Texas football stadium. Participants will be compensated $20 for their time. For more information, visit or email

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