Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Rehabilitation Medicine, Division of Physical Therapy, Emory University

My research program is at the forefront of the nascent area of neuromechanics, and pioneers new understanding of how movement intention translates to action through the complex interplay between the nervous system and the musculoskeletal system. Our basic science findings have facilitated advances in understanding movement disorders and in identifying mechanisms of rehabilitation. We focus on complex, whole body human movements such as bipedal walking, standing balance, which have strong clinical relevance, as well as skilled movements involved in dance and sport. By drawing from neuroscience, biomechanics, rehabilitation, robotics, and physiology we have discovered exciting new principles of human movement. Using computational and experimental methods, we have been able to take electrical neuromotor signals from the body and link changes in neural sensorimotor mechanisms to functional biomechanical outputs during movement. Our novel framework is being used by researchers across the world to understand both normal and impaired movement control in humans as well as animals as well as to develop better robotic devices.

My lab’s research is rapidly expanding to include a wide variety of sensorimotor disorders including Parkinson’s disease, stroke, spinal cord injury, lower limb loss, depression, and normal aging. We collaborate with several physical therapy researchers who are developing novel gait rehabilitation interventions for Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and spinal cord injury to understand how to understand and optimize treatment outcomes. We are examining the effects of lower limb loss on gait and balance with implications for improved prosthesis design. We are exploring psychomotor metrics to help optimize deep brain stimulation treatment for Parkinson’s and depression. We are also studying highly skilled behaviors seen in dancers and athletes to inform development of rehabilitation strategies as well as devices to improve gait and balance. To understand the neural basis of the movements we measure, we are recording brain activity during balance control to see how neural mechanism controlling movement change with impairment and rehabilitation. We are also developing a new foundational understanding and computer simulations of how muscle proprioceptive sensors provide information to the brain and nervous system for movement that have translational impact in informing the mechanisms underlying impairments such as sensory loss after cancer treatment, spasticity, and other balance disorders.

Experience

  • –present
    Professor of Biomechanical Engineering and Co-Director of the Neural Engineering Center, Georgia Institute of Technology