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HMAL Core Research Areas

the Human Motion Analysis Laboratory is currently conducting research in the following core areas:


Gait Biomechanics

Research in the area of gait biomechanics examines primarily kinematic, kinetic, and electromyographic aspects of human walking. The overall focus of this research area is to better understand biomechanical, neuromuscular, and metabolic aspects of walking in healthy individuals and individuals with musculoskeletal or neurologic pathology.

These studies range from examination of walking in people with traumatic injury to the foot, to examination of gait changes in people with Parkinson disease undergoing deep brain stimulation surgery.

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Grasping Biomechanics

Research in the area of grasping biomechanics includes clinical biomechanics of the lower and upper limb articulations such as the knee, shoulder and fingers. For example, research investigates how people grasp objects and then works to develop mechanisms that might replace some functions of the human hand.

Follow the link to learn more about research in grasping biomechanics.

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Manual Wheelchair Biomechanics

This research examines the kinematics, kinetics, and spatiotemporal characteristics of upper limb movements in individuals with spinal cord injury who use manual wheelchairs. Researchers at the University of Washington worked in collaborations with the University of Pittsburgh, Department of Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System, and the Kessler Medical Rehabilitation Research and Education Corporation.

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Musculoskelatal Biomechanics

Research in the area of musculoskeletal biomechanics works toward understanding the consequences of exercise and physical therapy interventions on joint stability. Recent projects have included study of the effects of strength training for knee osteoarthritis.

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Posture and Stability

Although the understanding of the development of postural control in children with and without disabilities is increasing, there continue to be gaps in our knowledge. Our current limited understanding of mechanistic differences in the use, integration, adaptation and learning related to sensory systems for postural control, especially in children with Cerebral Palsy (CP), highlights the need for more study in this area.

Our current research in this area seeks to understand the use and integration of sensory information for postural control and adaptation/learning ability during sensory perturbations in children with CP and other developmental disabilities. The goal is to design appropriate physical therapy sensory-motor interventions and determine effectiveness of those interventions.

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Spasticity and Joint Stiffness

Research in the area of spasticity and joint stiffness includes project examining how ankle spasticity and joint stiffness can adversely impact quality of life and gait in persons with stroke, head injury, cerebral palsy, HTLV-1 myopathy, equinus and other pathologies. The HMAL has developed equipment and methods to mechanically quantify spasticity and joint stiffness and has published extensively in this research area. These instruments and methods are useful for quantifying and understanding the mechanisms, natural history and effectiveness of interventions for treating ankle spasticity and joint stiffness.

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Sensory Contributions to Balance

Our ability to maintain and regain balance when it is disrupted depends on our ability to effectively use information from our sensory systems, including vision, our vestibular (inner ear) system, and our somatosensory system, the sensory system that provides information about our bodies via touch and the sensory receptors in our muscles and joints.

When all of our sensory systems are working well together, we are able to use information from each of these systems to maintain and regain balance if it is disrupted. When things are working well we also have the ability to override inaccurate sensory information from one system and rely more heavily on our other systems to maintain our balance. This process of shifting from one sensory system to another is called re-weighting.

People with balance deficits often rely more heavily on one or more sensory systems and at the same time they may have a problem with the functioning of one or more of the sensory systems. This limits their ability to maintain and regain balance because they have more limited sensory input and a limited ability to shift from one sensory system to another (re-weight) when the information they receive is inaccurate or conflicting.

Follow the link to learn more aboout our current research in this area.

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To learn more, please explore the links below:

Featured Research Articles

Multiple Sclerosis

View the latest research articles on Multiple Sclerosis written by faculty from the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine.

Volunteer to Participate in our Research Studies

The Department of Rehabilitation Medicine is looking for volunteers to participate in research studies on Multiple Sclerosis & Pain Management, and Traumatic Brain Injury.

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