Associate Professor of Physical Therapy
College of Public Health and Health Professions
Carolynn Patten’s research focuses on understanding the neural basis of human movement with the overriding goal of elucidating mechanisms of movement dysfunction in neuropathologies. Her current work seeks to determine the capacity for motor recovery and identify critical factors that contribute to rehabilitation efficacy.
Patten’s translational approach combines tools from neurophysiology, neuroimaging, biomechanics, and clinical rehabilitation to study human performance. As a result, her research crosses disciplines including motor control, physiology, biomechanics, clinical medicine, and bioengineering. From a practical standpoint, her research influences clinical care through a better understanding of factors that contribute to neurorehabilitation efficacy. This research will help individuals with motor dysfunction resulting from neuropathologies, such as stroke, in maximizing recovery and quality of life.
Patten’s current research builds on clinical investigations of rehabilitation interventions for stroke recovery conducted early in her career. Rather than providing definitive evidence to support a particular intervention, this work identified distinct patterns of response in clinical and behavioral outcomes (i.e., responders vs. non-responders). Clinical metrics failed to identify clear predictors of treatment outcome. In contrast, patterns in the behavioral outcomes suggested these disparate patterns of response result from intrinsic physiologic differences in the capacity for motor recovery.
As Patten’s work progresses, she will further examine the neurobiological underpinnings of motor control using advanced neurophysiological and modeling techniques. Knowledge gained from these experiments will further understanding of neuromechanical control of human movement, advance development of evidence-based neurorehabilitation interventions, and identify prognostic indicators for motor recovery.