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Trunk instability is oftentimes a major problem for individuals with neuromuscular impairments such as stroke and spinal cord injury. It not only compromises their independence during activities of daily living but can also lead to secondary health issues such as kyphosis, pressure sores, and reduced respiratory capacity. In light of this important health challenge, my talk will focus on our recent and current efforts to answer pressing questions associated with trunk stability and control. After giving a short introduction on my research team and its activities, I will present on innovative techniques that can be used to: (1) mechanistically understand trunk stability and its control in non-disabled individuals; and (2) train and restore trunk stability in individuals with neuromuscular impairments affecting the trunk. I will specifically describe our use of system identification techniques to quantify trunk control during sitting; our development and evaluation of a portable device for quantitatively assessing and training dynamic sitting posture; and our use of non-invasive spinal stimulation to restore trunk stability following spinal cord injury. The presentation will conclude with recommendations on future work enhancing our understanding of trunk stability and its restoration in individuals with neuromuscular impairments, with the ultimate goal of promoting their overall quality of life.


Albert Vette is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Alberta, where he is the Director of the Neuromuscular Control & Biomechanics Lab. He also is a Research Scientist at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton and a member of the Neuroscience & Mental Health Institute and SMART Network, both at the University of Alberta. Albert received his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto, and completed a MITACS postdoctoral fellowship in Human Movement Sciences at Toronto Rehab and the University of Waterloo. In line with his interdisciplinary background, Albert has published 60+ peer-reviewed journal articles in the domains of human movement neuromechanics, quantitative performance assessment, and rehabilitation engineering. Using both experimental and theoretical means, his team’s efforts are focused on gaining a better understanding of how we control movement and on enhancing functional independence following neuromuscular impairment. Current research activities include the identification of active and passive mechanisms involved in human postural control; characterizing the role of noise in sensorimotor speed of processing; establishing quantitative techniques for effective evaluation of rehabilitation outcomes; and developing advanced assistive technologies for postural control using various electrical stimulation paradigms. Albert fosters strong collaborations with clinical and industrial stakeholders within Alberta, but also across North America. 

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