Motion Lab
Doctor of Physical Therapy Research

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Gait Rehabilitation and Research Lab (GRRL)

Gait Rehabilitation and Research Lab (GRRL) investigates intervention solutions for fall prevention. Our research investigates the effectiveness of perturbation training for enhancing postural and dynamic stability in individuals with neurological or musculoskeletal disorders. We also design fall assessment portable tools such as smartphone apps and use inertial sensors in understanding movement characteristics. Our research involves understanding Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) using inertial sensors. Research in Gait Rehabilitation Research Lab explores stability and stride interval complexity due to controlled gait and postural perturbations and during more complex cognitive and functional tasks while walking. The ultimate goal of our research is to improve quality of life of patient population by introducing interventions for movement disorders.

Dr. Rahul Soangra
Location: Harry and Diane Rinker Health Science Campus

Neuromechanics of Human Movement Laboratory

Dr. Jo Armour Smith’s program of research investigates how postural control of the trunk is adapted in response to pain, aging and skill training, and the mechanisms underlying these adaptations. Her current research focuses on the adaptations in trunk control that are associated with persistent low back pain, as these adaptations may contribute to the recurrence of symptoms. She uses a neuromechanical approach that blends biomechanics and neuroscience to study how the nervous system and musculoskeletal system interact to produce movement in healthy individuals and individuals with back pain. Research in the Neuromechanics of Human Movement Laboratory (NOHMLab) explores trunk muscle activity, trunk motion, and associated cortical function during controlled postural perturbations and during more complex functional tasks like walking and turning.

Initial work in the NOHMLab will examine the relationship between cortical function and impairments in postural control in individuals with persistent low back pain. Translational studies will also quantify changes in cortical function in response to physical therapy intervention. Clinical studies will then investigate the effectiveness of motor learning exercise interventions for enhancing postural control in individuals with acute and persistent low back pain, with the ultimate goal of increasing the understanding of mechanisms underlying the transition from acute to persistent back pain and enhancing physical therapy treatment of this disorder.  

Dr. Jo Armour Smith
Location: Harry and Diane Rinker Health Science Campus

Motor Control and Motor Development Research Laboratory

Dr. Grant-Beuttler’s research has focused on motor control and motor development in the newborn infant and young child.  Specifically, she is interested in how uterine confinement and muscle tendon unit play a role in the development of motor skills.  Use of movement analysis systems have frequently been employed in this research.  Currently, she is working to develop a clinically useful movement analysis system for clinical and research use.  Her research has also addressed youth obesity and youth at risk for obesity and she has participated in developing a school based exercise and nutrition program for middle school students who are at risk or obese.  In addition, Dr. Grant-Beuttler has been involved in Constraint Induced Movement Therapy and the use of movement analysis systems in evaluation of this intervention in both children and adults.  Dr. Grant-Beuttler has received funding from the Department of Agriculture, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and private foundations. 

Dr. Marybeth Grant-Beuttler
Location: Harry and Diane Rinker Health Science Campus

Telerehabilitation, Robotic Therapy, and Augmented Reality Games for Stroke Recovery

As part of a series of collaborative clinical research studies with Dr. Steven Cramer’s Neural Repair Lab at UCI, Dr. McKenzie and DPT students have been involved in the inception and implementation of innovative approaches to stroke rehabilitation that incorporate cutting edge technology into emerging models of neurorehabilitation for stroke.  The interdisciplinary research team includes neurologists, post-doctoral fellows, M.D./Ph.D. and Ph.D. students, physical and occupational therapists, bioengineers and bioengineering graduate students, computer scientists, and undergraduates.

Dr. Alison McKenzie
Location: Harry and Diane Rinker Health Science Campus

Dynamic Prehension Lab (DPL)

Dr. Susan Duff’s program of research investigates the development and recovery of prehensile skill following peripheral or central neural injury. She is interested in how individual resources and opportunity influence motor learning and control of hand and arm movement. Current research in the Dynamic Prehension Laboratory (DPL) focuses on quantitative assessment of interlimb coordination in children and adults with hemiparesis as well as the design of innovative interventions to accelerate and expand the development and recovery of prehensile skill. The lab is now examining the efficacy of technology-based interventions to augment arm movement and learning in young infants with unilateral dysfunction. Although her work is grounded in development and pediatrics she has expanded to include collaborations examining prehensile training programs for persons with incomplete spinal cord injury and work examining the efficacy of priming with training to expand the window of recovery for persons with hemiparesis. Her expertise in pediatrics brings a creative touch to this expansion across the lifespan.

Dr. Susan V Duff
Location: Harry and Diane Rinker Health Science Campus

Translational Gait Assessment and Intervention Lab

Dr. Ignasiak’s research focuses on the quantification of human gait function and the understanding of the underlying neuromuscular control principles. Walking is one of the most common activities of daily living and deteriorates in the presence of most neurological disorders, as well as in the general aging population. Although numerous tools and measures have been developed to assess walking function it remains unclear how the complex interaction of spatial-temporal gait metrics, such as sufficient movement amplitude, rhythmicity, intra- and interlimb coordination govern safe and efficient ambulation. Furthermore, specific gait interventions to maintain or rehabilitate adequate levels of essential gait outcomes, such as for example the appropriate level of gait variability, are generally lacking in the clinical practice.

In his research, Dr. Ignasiak uses traditional motion capture systems, but also mobile devices like inertial measurement unit systems and smartphones to quantify gait performance inside the laboratory, as well as out in the wild. Dr. Ignasiak seeks to fully characterize the quality of a gait pattern by comprehensively analyzing movement-related data and the application of multivariate statistical tools and innovative machine learning approaches, all while avoiding arbitrary and biased parameter selection. In this way, he aims to complement the clinical practice in the assessment of gait function during the evaluation of treatment effects, as well as the monitoring of disease progression. He furthermore integrates neurophysiological tools, such as H-reflexes or electroencephalography to observe nervous system gait control principles, in order to inform the development of innovative intervention strategies to train and rehabilitate the control of optimal gait function. With his work, Dr. Ignasiak aims to ensure successful ambulation and thereby to promote an independent and active lifestyle in the elderly and diseased populations.

Dr. Niklas Ignasiak
Location: Harry and Diane Rinker Health Science Campus