Welcome to the Locomotor Expertise and Rehabilitation Lab

Our mission is to determine why people fall (and why they don’t) with the goal of remediating balance impairment. We pursue this objective by developing novel tools to assess balance proficiency and fall risk, identifying neuromechanical mechanisms of “better” balance, and optimizing rehabilitation interventions that improve walking balance. Our lab is based in the Department of Kinesiology in the College of Applied Health Sciences.

Research Approach

1. We study motor behaviors that elicit failures. In the absence of motor behaviors that are of sufficient difficulty to evoke failures in balance control it is difficult to quantify differences in balance proficiency. This limits our ability to assess fall risk and identify neuromechanical mechanisms of better walking balance. Therefore we use several methods to elicit balance failures including beam walking and discrete mechanical perturbations while walking.

2. We examine the full spectrum of motor skill, from athletes to healthy non-athletes to patients. While rarely thought about in a unified manner, comparing performance and control along such a continuum may reveal previously unidentified mechanisms of motor coordination and learning. These mechanisms may help to guide the development and testing of rehabilitation interventions.

3. We take a 3-tiered approach to studying balance by testing the role of error detection, strategy selection, and motor execution. We use a range of psychomotor and physiological measurements to identify perceived thresholds of instability and test the role of error detection in balance control. To study the role of strategy selection we use a variety of biomechanical tools including inverse dynamics and musculoskeletal models to characterize, predict, and compare the selection of movement strategies. Lastly, we use computational methods such matrix factorization and cluster analysis to analyze, interpret, and visualize large data sets of muscle activity (EMG) to gain insight into neuromotor mechanisms that are involved in the execution of intra- and inter-limb coordination for better balance. 

Facilities

Our laboratory, a 2500 ft space for human subjects experiments, is located on the first floor of the Disability, Health, and Social Policy Building (DHSP) on UIC’s West Campus. There is also substantial office space adjoining the lab for graduate students. We discuss research ideas with several faculty in the departments of Kinesiology (Mark Grabiner), physical therapy (Tanvi Bhatt; Clive Pai) and bioengineering (Jim Patton), and collaborate with practicing physical therapists in the UIC Faculty practice PT clinic.

Our lab contains an 8-camera motion capture system from Motion Analysis Corp, a 32 channel electromyography system from Motion Labs, and a custom built instrumented split-belt treadmill from Treadmetrix.