Advancement of the understanding of neural control of balance
Individuals who have suffered a stroke are limited in their activities of daily living and at a high risk of suffering a fall. There is currently a limited understanding of brain mechanisms involved in restoring balance control post-stroke, but there appears to be significant involvement from various brain regions. Myelin, which is critical for rapid and efficient conduction of electrical signals throughout the brain and spinal cord, may play an important role in the coordination of rapid responses that are required when individuals encounter a trip or a slip, in order to prevent falling. The primary objectives of my basic line of research are to explore and understand the contribution of myelination from various brain regions to the control of balance recovery responses across the lifespan and in more susceptible populations, such as individuals with stroke and other traumatic brain injuries.
Development of interventions to improve post-stroke balance and mobility
My second objective involves the translation from basic research to development of rehabilitation applications and technologies in order to improve balance and mobility in older adults and those with brain injury. My post-doctoral research emphasizes the use of neuroimaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging, diffusion tensor imagining and electroencephalography to detect subtle changes in brain structure and function in response to motor learning interventions. Using these techniques, I am investigating the effects of therapeutic interventions that emphasize the learning of rapid protective upper and lower limb movements on the structure and connectivity of cortical brain areas. This program of research will uniquely inform scientists and clinicians on the relationship between structural and functional changes that are exhibited following therapeutic interventions and has the potential to improve the lives of individuals living with age and injury related balance and mobility deficits.