Thrust 4: Human Performance and Rehabilitation

Research pursued in this thrust investigates the neural and mechanical control of human movement in health and disease. Developing this understanding requires addressing a range of critical questions: How do we learn to reach, grasp, and manipulate objects? Does the coordination of walking differ when walking through the park on one’s own, when rushing to cross the street before the traffic light changes, or when walking very slowly? The common movement tasks described above become so highly automated that they are taken for granted. However, in the face of neuropathologies such as stroke, spinal cord injury, or Parkinson’s Disease these abilities are lost and recovery of function is elusive. Current rehabilitation efforts diverge between medical approaches that utilize exercise/physical activity and biologic agents to drive recovery through neuroplasticity, and engineered approaches that employ robotic and exoskeleton devices to compensate for lost function.

Human movement is multi-factorial, but typically studied with single-disciplinary approaches using non-invasive methods (inference, models vs. evidence).
  • Biomarkers – Prognosis – recovery | rehab candidacy | Capacity for learning & recovery (Stroke, SCI, Parkinson's and Alzheimer’s Diseases, Schizophrenia)
  • Paradigms for quantifying Learning; Adaptation; Behavioral Transfer
  • Neuroplasticity - Methods to induce & leverage behavioral change
  • Animal Models of Learning | Behavior
Track 4
Plantarflexor motor evoked potentials (MEPs) elicited during walking can serve as a prognostic biomarker for motor recovery following stroke. Rather than direct, monosynaptic responses, as revealed in healthy controls, mixed direct and oligosynaptic responses in mild-moderately impaired and predominantly oligosynaptic or propriospinal responses are observed in severely impaired stroke survivors. Novel methods under development seek to induce neuroplasticity and leverage behavioral adaptation thus promoting recovery of motor function such as independent walking. (Prof. Carolynn Patten)


  • Julius Ebinu (Neurological Surgery, School of Medicine)
  • Wilsaan Joiner (Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior, College of Biological Sciences; Neurology, School of Medicine)
  • Sanjay Joshi (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, College of Engineering)
  • Zhaodan Kong (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, College of Engineering)
  • Allan Martin (Neurological Surgery, School of Medicine; Spine Center)
  • Craig McDonald (Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, School of Medicine; Pediatrics; MDA Neuromuscular Disease Clinics)
  • Lee Miller (Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior, College of Biological Sciences; Center for Mind and Brain)
  • Karen Moxon (Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering)
  • Kwan Ng (Neurology, School of Medicine)
  • Carolynn Patten (Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, School of Medicine; Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior, College of Biological Sciences)
  • Stephen Robinson (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, College of Engineering)
  • Jonathon Schofield (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, College of Engineering)