Research

I study how the nervous system controls the movements we make every day. A major focus is translating basic neuroscience discoveries to target neural plasticity to improve the rehabilitation of walking after neurological damage such as stroke. My research emphasizes contributions that the spinal cord has in functional coordination of the arms and legs. I use methodologies that cross many boundaries and make use of the techniques of neurophysiology, biomechanics, motor behaviour, and exercise physiology.

There are two major themes in my research program: 1) basic science discoveries in neural control of human rhythmic limb movement; 2) clinical characterization and translation to neuromuscular plasticity and rehabilitation after neurotrauma. Click on this to go to rehabneurolab.ca and read more about my research.

Neural control of rhythmic human limb movement

This theme actually forms the umbrella for my other research activities. You can read a bit more about this below and elsewhere, but let me give you the short answers before you move on. My work suggests that the neural control of rhythmic locomotion in humans is supported by spinal cord circuits just like found in other animals like the monkey, cat, rat, and turtle. Related to this point the activity of all 4 of our limbs support each other during locomotion--our arms give the legs a helping hand when we walk. My research shows that many of the connections that help us walk when we don’t have damage are preserved after neurotrauma and can be strengthened with rehabilitation and training.

Neuromuscular plasticity and rehabilitation

Much of my work has focused upon describing mechanisms of coordination in reflex pathways during human movement. I am now building upon the concepts that I have established to evaluate the changes in this coordination as a result of exercise training, after injury (e.g. stroke or spinal cord injury), or after rehabilitative interventions. We use arm and leg cycling and arm cycling training--activities that enhance arm and leg interactions--to strengthen neurological function and walking ability after stroke and spinal cord injury. Another emphasis is evaluating the bilateral response to strength training of one arm or leg in neurologically intact participants and after stroke. This "cross-education effect"--where after stroke intially training the stronger limb can help "boost" the weaker one--is steadily increasing in emphasis in my lab.

Funding for the basic science projects is provided by NSERC and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (BC & Yukon) is the main funder for my clinical projects.