Why does NICHD study rehabilitation medicine?

To help people achieve their full potential, and to ensure the health, productivity, independence, and well-being of all people, the NICHD supports rehabilitation medicine research to improve people’s physical and mental functioning.

NICHD’s National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR) was established in 1990 to support research and research training related to the rehabilitation of individuals with physical disabilities. Since then, the NCMRR has supported a large portfolio of cutting-edge research that has improved the health of those with physical disabilities.

Other parts of NICHD’s focus on improving the mental functioning of individuals who are recovering from a traumatic brain injury or stroke, and on identifying effective supports and interventions for intellectual and developmental disability.

Findings and interventions from rehabilitation medicine have relevance to those without illness or injury, too. For example, rehabilitation physicians may learn skills and techniques working with complicated multiple trauma patients that they can apply to injury prevention in athletes.

Although more than two decades of NCMRR research have revealed improvements in rehabilitation, there remain unanswered questions, for example regarding:

  • Mechanisms of injury and repair
  • Ways to restore critical pathways
  • Genetic and genomic contributions to outcomes.

The All of Us Research Program (previously the Precision Medicine Initiative) is poised to have an impact on rehabilitation medicine by focusing attention on ways to incorporate variations in genes, environment, and lifestyle in individualized treatments.

For certain types of rehabilitation, best practices have not yet been developed. Research has generated many discoveries, but applying new and better interventions and adapting them for wider use remain priorities. Basic, translational, and clinical research in rehabilitation medicine will continue to be an important part of NICHD’s overall mission.

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