Current Projects

The moderation effect of BDNF genotype and self-reported habitual physical activity levels on age of onset, disease progression, and postural instability in Parkinson’s disease

Background: Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) level has been reported to play an important role in driving neuroplasticity in patients with neurologic disorders, and levels of  BDNF are known to increase in response to vigorous physical activity. The degree to which the BDNF gene is expressed is modulated, at least in part, by the associated genotype, with favorable genotypes producing greater amounts of this important neurotrophin. Among the various physical impairments seen in individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD), postural instability is least likely to respond to medication and must be treated with exercise intervention, which is theorized to have a neuroprotective effect in neurodegenerative diseases. It is not known, however, in what way BDNF genotype and the history of one’s physical activity throughout life might modulate this neuroprotective response.

Purpose: To determine if BDNF genotype interacts with lifetime self-reported physical activity levels to affect the degree of postural instability present, as determined by measures of gait and balance function, as well as disease severity and age of onset in individuals with PD.

Immediate Effects of Cervical Spine Manipulation on Gait Parameters in Individuals with Neck Pain

Background: Neck pain is a common condition that causes activity limitations, participation restrictions, and declined quality of life for many individuals. Recent studies have shown that individuals with reported neck pain also have differences in gait parameters compared to individuals without neck pain. These differences may suggest limitations during ambulation activities such as shopping, hiking, and traveling. Thrust joint manipulation (TJM) of the cervical spine is a well established and highly recommended intervention to treat neck pain, headache, and mobility restrictions. However, research is lacking in studies that investigate whether or not the benefits of cervical TJM will effectively restore normal gait parameters and reduce concurrent limitations in individuals with neck pain.

Purpose: To determine if cervical spine manipulation causes an immediate change in gait parameters in individuals with mechanical neck pain, while walking with different functional neck movements. The secondary purpose is to determine if there are differences in subjective pain reduction between hands-on cervical manipulation and hands-off active cervical rotation performed in supine (sham treatment) in individuals with mechanical neck pain. Lastly, we will determine whether differences in subjective pain correlate with those seen in gait parameters of individuals with mechanical neck pain.