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Colloquium Speaker: James Finley Assistant Professor; Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy; University of Southern California

Dr. Finley
Winston Chung Hall 205

Understanding the Neuromechanics of Locomotor Learning in Healthy and Pathological Gait


Abstract: Motor skill acquisition is the basis of a broad class of rehabilitation interventions for people post-stroke, individuals with spinal cord injury, and people with Parkinson’s disease. However, although there is a rich literature examining motor skill acquisition in tasks that involve the upper extremities, important questions remain about the factors that influence skill acquisition in behaviors such as walking. Here, I will share recent work addressing two important aspects of skill learning during human walking. First, I will highlight a series of studies that seek to identify how walking speed, metabolic cost, and dynamic balance interact to regulate how healthy individuals and people post-stroke choose to walk. This work has direct implications for gait rehabilitation and may also apply to other populations known to have gait asymmetries such amputees or people with Parkinson’s disease. Second, I will share our recent work developing novel approaches for locomotor training that use immersive virtual reality to enhance skill acquisition and promote the transfer of learning to the real world. These interventions leverage recent advances in game design, interactive technology, and motion capture to allow multiple patient populations to practice advanced walking skills such as turning and obstacle negotiation in a safe, interactive environment. 


Biography: Dr. James Finley is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and the Neuroscience Graduate Program at the University of Southern California. Dr. Finley received his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Florida A&M University and his doctoral degree in Biomedical Engineering from Northwestern University. Following his doctoral training, Dr. Finley completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Finley and his research team in the Locomotor Control Lab use experimental studies and computational models to understand how walking is controlled by healthy individuals and individuals with neuromotor impairments such as stroke and Parkinson’s disease. The ultimate objective of his work is to develop new interventions to improve the quality of life for people with mobility impairments. Since joining USC in 2013, Dr. Finley’s research has been supported through funding from the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, the Link Foundation, and the Southern California Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute.