From tremors to loss of muscle control, it’s estimated that millions of Americans cope with symptoms of movement disorders.

While many of these conditions aren’t curable, researchers like Amy Bastian are determined to understand locomotor learning through neuroscience research to help patients recover from neurological damage.

“No matter what medications, interventions, or devices we give people, understanding these learning processes is important because that is how that person ends up changing the way they move,” Bastian said during a lecture at Stanford University. She is a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine professor in the neuroscience and physical medicine and rehabilitation departments and director of the Center for Movement Studies at the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

Bastian will explore the complexities of the human brain’s role in movement control during her public talk, “Learning and Relearning Movement,” at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC in Roanoke.

“Studying human motor learning is crucial, especially in the context of prevalent diseases like stroke, because it provides essential insights into how the brain relearns the patterns of activity across living neuronal networks that can generate the complexities of precise coordinated movement patterns after neurological damage,” said Michael Friedlander, executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and Virginia Tech’s vice president for health sciences and technology.

Bastian’s pioneering work involves studying movement control and learning patterns using advanced techniques such as brain stimulation, robotics, and movement tracking. By describing the neural mechanisms underpinning our ability to acquire, retain, and generalize movement patterns, Bastian’s talk will provide valuable insights into initial motor learning and its subsequent rehabilitation after brain injury or disease.

Her work complements the efforts of many Virginia Tech researchers, including those studying neurological rehabilitation in children with cerebral palsy and other movement disorders at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute’s Neuromotor Research Clinic and the College of Engineering’s Kevin P. Granata Biomechanics Lab.

“Several Virginia Tech research teams are investigating similar neurological ailments and therapeutic approaches as Dr. Bastian,” Friedlander said. “Her expertise in understanding both normal and abnormal motor learning has opened avenues to groundbreaking insights that have the potential to revolutionize rehabilitation strategies for individuals with neurological damage. We are honored to host her and share her insights with our community in Roanoke and across Virginia Tech.”

Bastian has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers, accumulating over 20,000 citations. Her research program at Johns Hopkins has an active research grant portfolio awarded by the National Institutes of Health, currently valued at $1.475 million for this fiscal year.

One of her latest projects uses video games and in-person tests to evaluate how children with and without brain damage gain movement skills over time. Bastian expects this study to help one day generate tailored therapeutic interventions that account for a patient’s age, developmental maturity, and medical condition.

Earlier this year, Bastian was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences for outstanding contributions to her field. She has also been awarded the 2015 Senator Jacob Javits Award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at NIH, the 2007 American Physical Therapy Association Neurology Section Research Award, and the 2007 Susanne Klein-Vogelbach Award for the Research of Human Movement.

Bastian completed her undergraduate degree in physical therapy at the University of Oklahoma. She completed her doctoral degree in movement science and a postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience at Washington University, where she was a faculty member in physical therapy before joining the Kennedy Krieger Institute in 2001.

The institute’s free public lecture series is made possible by Maury Strauss, a longtime Roanoke businessman and benefactor who recognizes the importance of bringing leading biomedical research scientists to the community.

The public is welcome to attend the lecture, including a 5 p.m. reception with refreshments in the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at 2 Riverside Circle in Roanoke. Bastian’s talk will be streamed live via Zoom and archived on the institute’s website.

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