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Rehabilitation Research at NSF

Accessibility themed icons Image credit: Auttapon Wongtakeaw/

NSF has many funding opportunities for research related to rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation workshops

To help kickstart the next wave of technologies to empower people with disabilities, the NSF Convergence Accelerator program has funded two workshops in May 2021:

In January 2022, NSF announced that "Enhancing Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities" will be the research topic for one of the new Convergence Accelerator tracks. Learn more about this track (Track H) in the 2022 NSF Convergence Accelerator program solicitation (NSF 22-583).

Programs supporting rehabilitation research

Biomechanics and Mechanobiology (ENG/CMMI/BMMB)
The BMMB program supports fundamental research in biomechanics and mechanobiology. The program emphasizes multiscale mechanics approaches that integrate across molecular, cell, tissue, and organ domains in the study of organisms. Projects may include theoretical, computational, and experimental approaches. Projects relevant to rehabilitation are welcome.

Disability and Rehabilitation Engineering (ENG/CBET/DARE)
The DARE program supports fundamental engineering research that will improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities through: the development of new technologies, devices, or software combined with advancement of knowledge regarding healthy or pathological human motion, or advancement in understanding of injury mechanisms. Areas of particular interest are neuroengineering and rehabilitation robotics.

Engineering of Biomedical Systems (ENG/CBET/EBMS)
The EBMS program supports research projects that integrate engineering and life sciences to solve biomedical problems and serve humanity in the long term. Projects use an engineering framework (for example, design or modeling) that supports increased understanding of physiological or pathophysiological processes. Areas include: methods, models, and enabling tools applied to understand or control living systems; fundamental improvements in deriving information from cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems; or new approaches to the design of systems that include both living and non-living components for eventual medical use.

Mind, Machine and Motor Nexus (ENG/CMMI/M3X)
The M3X program supports fundamental studies of bidirectional dynamic interactions between humans and intelligent machines. Interactions between humans and assistive devices are within the scope of M3X, however the focus of an M3X project should be on emergent behavior arising from dynamic interactions, rather than on advances in rehabilitation technologies.

Other relevant programs

Cognitive Neuroscience (SBE/BCS/CogNeuro)
Cognitive neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field of research to understand the neural basis of human cognition. This program therefore seeks to fund highly innovative proposals that employ brain-based measurements to advance our understanding of the neural systems that mediate cognitive processes. Proposals will be considered that investigate a particular cognitive process using human brain data. Projects relevant to rehabilitation are welcome.

Human-Centered Computing (CISE/IIS/HCC)
The HCC program supports cross disciplinary research in the field of human-computer interaction. Rehabilitation research addressing HCC can involve a range of areas, including multimodal interfaces, communication, collaboration, cooperation, social media, assistive technology, design, and social impacts of technology. HCC research designs new computing systems to amplify diverse humans' physical, cognitive, and social capabilities; to assess benefits, effects, and risks of computing systems; and to understand how human, technical, and contextual aspects of systems interact to shape those effects.

Perception, Action and Cognition (SBE/BCS/PAC)
Rehabilitation-related proposals may be of interest to the PAC program if they focus on discovering fundamental principles of human motor control and coordination, or perceptual or cognitive processes that might influence optimal design of rehabilitation interventions. The primary focus should not be rehabilitation or disease.

Science of Learning and Augmented Intelligence (SBE/BCS/SL)
The Science of Learning and Augmented Intelligence (SL) program supports research that develops basic theoretical insights and fundamental knowledge about principles, processes, and mechanisms of learning in humans, other animals and in machines. It also supports research about augmented intelligence -- how human cognitive function can be augmented through interactions with others, contextual variations, and technology. Priorities include projects that use insights from biological systems of learning to inspire innovation in human-technology interfaces, and adaptive technologies that have intelligent capabilities of biological systems.

Cross-directorate programs

Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience (CRCNS)
The CRCNS program supports collaborative activities that advance understanding of nervous system structure and function, mechanisms underlying nervous system disorders, and computational strategies used by the nervous system, including Research Proposals describing collaborative research and Data Sharing Proposals to enable sharing of data and other resources. Domestic and international projects will be considered. Funders include NSF, NIH, DOE, and partners in Germany, France, Israel, Japan, and Spain.

Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS)
The CPS program funds innovative cyber-physical systems research for rehabilitation. CPS proposals target physical and cognitive rehabilitation by creating closed or human-in-the loop cyber-physical systems that include adaptive sensing, actuation, and control.

Foundational Research in Robotics (FRR)
The FRR program supports research projects to advance the capabilities of robots or robotic systems that exhibit significant levels of both computational capability and physical complexity. Projects in rehabilitation robotics that focus on the creation or substantial improvement of important capabilities are welcome in the FRR program.

Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier: Core Research (FW-HTF)
The FW-HTF program supports convergent research to advance the human-technology partnership, in the context of work, workers, workplaces, education and reskilling, and the emerging socio-technological landscape. FW-HTF projects may incorporate rehabilitation research in the context of work and enhancing access to work. FW-HTF projects must embody a convergent research perspective incorporating social and economic analysis, as well as study of worker perspectives and quality of life.

Integrative Strategies for Understanding Neural and Cognitive Systems (NCS)
The NCS program calls for innovative, convergent, boundary-crossing proposals seeking to understand complex aspects of neural and cognitive systems through integrative multidisciplinary approaches. NCS projects advance the foundations of one or more of the following areas: 1) Neuroengineering and Brain-Inspired Concepts and Designs; 2) Individuality and Variation; 3) Cognitive and Neural Processes in Realistic, Complex Environments; and 4) Data-Intensive Neuroscience and Cognitive Science. Projects relevant to rehabilitation are welcome.

Smart Health and Biomedical Research in the Era of Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Data Science (SCH)
SCH welcomes proposals that develop innovative computer science, mathematics, and engineering approaches to support human rehabilitation. SCH funds diverse teams pursuing a wide range of science and technology to address the range of health issues related to rehabilitation, and going beyond a focus only on quality of life.