A new direction in movement research
How do we learn and control movement? That might sound like a basic question, but as the students graduating from the College of Public Health’s new neuromotor science program will tell you, the answers are anything but simple. The new graduate program brings together top faculty from across the college to uncover those answers—and in the process, it places Temple at the forefront of human movement science.
Carole Tucker, an associate professor of physical therapy and the director of the neuromotor science program, says that it breaks from traditional ways of thinking about how we move. “Research in this area often focuses on the final outcome—movement—but not on the underlying processes that shape movement,” she says.
“Neuromotor science uses a highly interactive, multi-disciplinary approach to look at the underlying processes,” says Tucker. The new program meshes biomechanics (the study of muscles, bones and joints and the physical forces they produce), neural control (how the nervous system activates those structures to create movement), and sensorimotor integration (how the nervous system balances sensory input to create the desired movements).
“This program is a confluence that reflects both movement and neural control,” says Tucker. “You can’t look at either one of them in isolation—it’s really about integration.”
The interdisciplinary advantage
Professors from both the Physical Therapy and Kinesiology departments teach courses in the neuromotor science program. But the boundary-jumping doesn’t end there. “We included courses in technical programming, modeling and instrumentation,” Tucker says—topics that would more traditionally be found in an engineering curriculum.
“When you study human movement, you have to understand both the physiology and the technology,” she explains. “You really need engineers and neuromotor experts working together to develop the metrics, equipment and algorithms that we use to understand movement.” The new program responds by training students with scientific, clinical and engineering backgrounds.
That’s on top of grant writing and statistic courses that hone students’ versatility. “We’re growing people who can be independent research scientists,” says Tucker. “We’re pulling in content that is really necessary for our students to succeed.”
The growing need for neuromotor science
Trends in population health make the new program more relevant than ever. “As we look at a society where people are staying alive longer,” says Tucker, “we’re seeing more adults with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke.” A better understanding of how humans control movement could lead to better therapy for those with neurodegenerative disease.
This fall the program will enter its second year, welcoming more students who are looking for an innovative, integrative education that sets the direction of future movement research and treatment. Tucker knows that neuromotor science is that place. “It’s a perfect confluence of all the expertise we have,” she says. “This is where the science is.”