Our Motivation

Our brains and bodies work together to provide each other with valuable sensory information in order to adapt to the environments we encounter on a daily basis. Lower back pain and injuries are common today, and can affect how our bodies move and how we interpret this movement. We work to understand these issues by focusing on spine health and function in young adults, athletes, and patients. Every individual is unique and therefore requires a personalized approach to care!

A graphical depiction of common spine movement approaches (we call these phenotypes, or fingerprints!). Each line represents a different spinal level, and the relative timing of movement during a forward bending movement.

Our Approaches

We aim to identify where any problem may be occurring by collecting data from a variety of sources. These include the non-invasive assessment of spine movement, muscle activation, and forces acting on and within the body. We use these data to facilitate the objective measurement of spine function, and data driven scoring of movement types. Our hope to develop objective routines to streamline work in clinical, performance, and workplace settings.

An visual example of the 3D motion captures we used to understand how spine movement is controlled. The image above depicts some of our 3D data from three view points (A: the left side, B: the back left side, C: from the back).

Examples of Previous Work

(1) One large aim of our motor control system is to ensure joint stability to avoid injury. Some of our previous work has explored and refined novel measures to quantify the dynamic stability of the spine in challenging environments. This work pulls on aspects of Dynamical Systems and Non-Linear Dynamics.

(2) The spine is an anatomically complex series of interconnected vertebrae. Capturing dynamic spine movement non-invasively can be extremely challenging. Some of our previous work has developed a non-invasive approach to quantify dynamic spine movement using 3D motion capture equipment.

(3) Given the anatomical complexity, noted above, how variable are the strategies taken to control the movement of the spine? We have explored this topic in a variety of ways using multivariate statistical analyses and machine learning!

(4) Proprioception is the term used to describe how we know where our body is positioned and if it is moving. We have explored this topic in a variety of published papers, including how supplementary sensory information can augment spine movement and proprioception.

Putting it All Together

Our research doesn’t happen in a vacuum. By blending biomechanics, ergonomics, and motor control to understand how spine movement is impacted in a variety of populations, we aim to reduce both the incidence of injury and promote recovery! Our blended approach is unique, including fundamental and applied research projects aimed at understanding how to quantify spinal motion, how to infer and score motor function using data-driven approaches, and how to relay meaningful sensory feedback to the motor control system.

See how we bring everything together by downloading the Infographic below!

How we integrate many aspects of our research. Typically research studies cover 1-3 of these areas with the aim of integrating all of them into a comprehensive framework!