Motor Control Laboratory

“The Motor Control Laboratory is focused on the control of arm and hand movements across the lifespan and in individuals with physical disabilities such as stroke, cerebral palsy and following peripheral nerve injury. Current research interests include the effectiveness of home-based rehabilitation programs to improve upper limb function and the development of new sensory and hand functional assessment tools using body-worn sensor technology. Our long-term goal is to improve delivery and assessment of movement-based therapies, which will ultimately lead to improved quality of life.”
Dr. Susan Brown, Director and Associate Professor of Movement Science

Learn more at

Motor Control Laboratory


OBL 4100
1402 Washington Hts.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2013
(734) 763-5829
(734) 647-2808



Upper Limb Function in Hemiplegic Populations

* Combining Sensorimotor Training with Aerobic Exercise This study examines the use of aerobic exercise as a means to enhance rehabilitation outcomes in adults with cerebral palsy (CP) or stroke. It also investigates potential underlying mechanisms, specifically brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Current research links aerobic exercise with enhanced fitness, executive function, attention, learning and mood. All of these parameters have the potential to positively influence rehabilitation. We are examining the effectiveness of using aerobic exercise as a precursor to a task specific intervention for the upper limbs such as Upper Limb Training and Assessment Program to improve therapeutic outcomes and relate upper limb performance to variables associated with aerobic exercise: mood, cognitive performance and BDNF levels. This line of research is particularly important in refining rehabilitation options for adults with CP or stroke.

* Adults with Cerbral Palsy Upper Limb and Posture Study
This study characterizes the differences in quality of upper limb movements relative to posture and dual task condition in adults with cerebral palsy. It further relates changes in upper limb performance under varying conditions to balance.

* Sensorimotor Training and Assessment in Individuals with Hemiplegic Pediatric Onset Disability; the ULTrA Program
Congenital Brachial Plexus Palsy (CBPP) is an injury to the peripheral brachial nerve plexus caused by traction applied on the spinal nerve roots during delivery. Individuals with CBPP can have impaired upper limb movement due, in part, to muscle weakness. Few studies exist which have examined these deficits from a sensorimotor perspective. This study examines proprioceptive abilities using a position matching task. Increased understanding of this population’s proprioceptive ability will drive the development of new and more effective therapy treatments in the traditional clinical environment or in-home intervention programs for individuals with CBPP.

Effects of Short-Term Immobilization on Proprioceptive Acuity

This study examines the effects of short-term immobilization of the nondominant upper limb on proprioceptive acuity. Subjects will complete upper limb matching tasks with varying degrees of difficulty in order to examine the effects of immobilization on elbow joint position awareness. Absolute error, defined as the absolute value of the difference between the final target and matching positions, will be the primary measure of overall endpoint matching performance used in this study. It is hypothesized that immobilization of the nondominant elbow joint will result in a transient decrease in proprioceptive ability.

Upper limb coordination during sequential bimanual tasks

Sequential bimanual movements are used to perform goal oriented functions frequently in everyday life. Research examining control of both upper limbs has focused almost exclusively on movements made simultaneously. However, little is known about the motor system and how it controls sequential bimanual movements. This information is critical in understanding how inter-limb coordination changes with age or in movement disorder conditions, such as hemiplegic stroke and cerebral palsy. This study examines the production of sequential bimanual tasks in a young and older, healthy population of individuals. The results of this preliminary study will contribute to disability research rehabilitation programs that focus on bimanual limb training in order to maximize function with activities of daily living.