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Conditions that affect the human brain are numerous and include vascular disorders (stroke and hemorrhage), trauma, infections, tumors, lack of oxygen and disease (Parkinson’s, CP, ALS, Alzheimer’s, MS and others). Medical science is aggressively exploring the molecular and cellular basis of the brain’s anatomy, function and capacity to repair itself (plasticity).

We’re focusing on the combined application of the most promising science and therapies for recovery of the whole brain, rather than limiting our attention and care to a specific disease or cause, which is the traditional approach. We are leveraging emerging brain and neural-science research and applying it to impairment in patients across the spectrum of brain injuries.

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Patients with injury to the brain are challenged with similar problems and functional losses, regardless of the specific cause. From an observational perspective, patients with brain conditions often appear the same physically and functionally, though they may have very different diagnoses. As a result, the rehabilitation course for patients with brain disorders tends to require similar nursing and therapeutic focus.

We also know that aggregating patients with various forms of brain impairment in a unified care and research structure allows us to influence recovery of the greatest number of patients. This aggregation also allows us to sharpen our knowledge and expertise on an ongoing basis. Our process means that we are continually fostering increasingly better recoveries for patients.

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In the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, the Brain Innovation Center includes three floors (23-25) of inpatient care, with more than 100 beds, and accommodates patients with diverse brain conditions and medical needs. The entire Center is the largest of the AbilityLab’s Innovation Centers in patient volume and staffing. This Center’s focus is on promoting brain healing and recovery, and offers the world’s best in medical and nursing care, diagnostic support and translational neuroscience research.

The top floor of the Brain Innovation Center is dedicated to medical/nursing support of patients with the most severe and fragile conditions affecting fundamental brain functions (e.g., arousal, lucidity, awareness, sensory, perception, motivation, information-processing/thinking, communication, memory and learning). This floor provides a calming/non-distracting environment to facilitate brain healing. Even the unique walls on this floor — which are curved — are acoustically designed to dampen sound.


Research activity includes pharmacotherapeutic applications, brain neuromodulation using external or implanted brain stimulators, use of smart devices and emerging technologies, and the potential application of biologic materials and therapies specific for neural action. In the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s Brain Innovation Center, we continue actively pursuing research and application in promising, potentially groundbreaking, interventions such as regenerative medicine.


How We Heal

The Brain Innovation Center includes 3 floors of inpatient medical/nursing care. One floor serves patients who require a calming environment. The other 2 serve patients who will benefit from a more robust, stimulating environment. Care includes clinical trials to facilitate neurologic repair and recovery.

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Brain Innovation Center

With three dedicated floors of inpatient care and over 100 beds, the Brain Innovation Center is designed to take care of patients with diverse conditions and to promote brain healing and recovery by providing the world’s best medical & nursing care supported by our novel research.

Arms + Hands Lab

The two-story Harris Family Foundation Arms + Hands Lab is a robust environment designed for patients and research participants working on recovering and strengthening complex hand and reaching skills — turning a key, picking up a pen, reaching for a glass, putting on a sweater…all the many things we do with our hands, arms and fingers.

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Legs + Walking Lab

This Lab is designed for patients and research participants with diagnoses affecting lower-body function due to brain or spinal cord injury and diseases of the nerves, muscles and bones. Researchers and clinicians focus on advancing trunk, pelvic and leg function, movement, coordination, strength and balance.

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Strength + Endurance Lab

This Lab is designed for patients and research participants working on building stamina and resilience. Therapy is targeted to improve complex motor and endurance activities, coordination and higher-level activities of daily living (cooking, dressing, gardening, sports).

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Think + Speak Lab

Recovering the ability to think, reason, perceive, swallow, eat, talk, interact with others and make decisions are key for returning to yourself, loved ones and life. In this Lab, combined therapeutic care and scientific application help you recover these building blocks of ability.

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Pediatric Lab

Pediatric patients (inpatient and outpatient) work with doctors, researchers and therapists in this kid-customized Pediatric Lab, scaled for smaller bodies, developing brains and appealing to young imaginations. 

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By The Numbers

In the Brain Innovation Center you'll find advanced technology coupled with innovative therapies in a comforting, healing space.

  • 17.5

    The average number of hours per week our inpatient Stroke patients spend in therapy. This is double the available therapy hours from many other centers or Skilled Nursing Facilities. More therapy = greater recovery!

  • 40

    The number of ongoing, board-certified clinical trials of the brain happening at any given time in the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. Plus, dozens of additional Research Studies.

  • 700

    We see +700 TBI patients from around the world annually, helping them relearn physical, intellectual, communication, psychosocial and work-related skills.

What We Treat

From the most traumatic brain injury to mild concussions, the AbilityLab is here to help you become your best self again. Visit the condition pages below to see what makes our treatment programs unique from all other hospitals.