The historical development of neuroscience in physical rehabilitation

Am J Occup Ther. 1996 Jul-Aug;50(7):561-8. doi: 10.5014/ajot.50.7.561.


Neuroscience and occupational therapy in physical rehabilitation have developed along parallel tracks. As physicians began to study the neural bases of motor control, they also began to reconsider the sequelae of "hopeless" diagnoses as conditions that they could influence. This change in some physicians' understanding of the neural mechanisms of motor control influenced other clinicians' ideas about patient care. Early work on treatment of patients with cerebral palsy and polio led to improvements in treatment approaches used to facilitate motor skill and functional motor ability in patients with upper motor neuron disorders. From the 1950s to the present, therapists have refined their treatment techniques as knowledge from neuroscience has become available. A few therapists, who are gradually increasing in number, have turned to the laboratory to study basic neuroscience problems that affect clinical treatment. This article describes the development of neuroscience research and neurorehabilitation theories and indicates common themes.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Neurosciences / history*
  • Neurosciences / trends
  • Occupational Therapy / history*
  • Occupational Therapy / trends
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / history*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / trends