Motor Development Lab

The mission of the Motor Development Lab is to investigate the development of motor control and coordination in infants and young children with and without disabilities as well as the impact of physical therapy treatment on motor and cognitive development. The laboratory is located in the VCU Department of Physical Therapy and encompasses 300 square feet dedicated to the assessment of infants and children. The Motor Development Lab includes equipment and space for biomechanical, behavioral and clinical research assessments.

  • Video processing and behavioral coding computers
  • Motion Monitor System: for recording, synchronizing and analyzing data
  • Bertec Non-conductive Force Plate
  • Electromyography (EMG) System: Run Technologies 8 Channel Myopac Jr
  • Tekscan Conformat Pressure mapping system
  • Data reduction and analysis software: Matlab
  • Many standardized assessment tools for assessing motor development in infants and children 

Does Timing Matter? Supporting Play Exploration and Development Intervention (SPEEDI2)

  • The purpose of this multi-site RCT is to evaluate the efficacy of Supporting Play Exploration and Developmental Intervention for infants born preterm. This proposal will evaluate efficacy in a cohort al born less than 29 weeks of gestation and compare the efficacy of the intervention started in the NICU or 3 months later.
  • Collaborative sites Virginia Commonwealth University / Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU including Physical Therapy, Biostatistics, Neonatology, Neurology and University of Virginia Neonatology and Developmental Pediatrics
  • NIH Formal title: Efficacy of Motor and Cognitive Intervention for Infants Born Preterm
  • Identifier: NCT03518736
  • Funding Source: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development
  • Press Release  

SPEEDI2_BrainBehavior: Relationship between CNS integrity and a Parent-Delivered Developmental Intervention for infants born very preterm

  • This project is a supplement to the SPEEDI2 clinical trial and will only enroll infants who are already enrolled in the SPEEDI2 Trial.
  • Collaborations between Virginia Commonwealth University / Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU Physical Therapy, Biostatistics, Neonatology, Neurology
  • The purpose of this project is to evaluate the feasibility and collect pilot data on the efficacy of the SPEEDI intervention (funded by an NIH R01) with different types of brain injuries and the neuroplasticity changes following early and intensive intervention.
  • Funding Source: Endowment Fund from the VCU C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research.

Play & Learning Across a Year (PLAY)

  • The purpose of this study is to develop a data set that focus on the behaviors of infants and mothers during natural activity in their homes. The data set will consist of fully transcribed and annotated videos, parent report questionnaires, video tours of the home, digital recordings of ambient noise, and detailed demographic information on 900+ infants and mothers from across the United States and Canada that will allow for collaborative analysis to a variety of research questions.
  • The project is led by Karen Adolphand Catherine Tamis-LeMonda of New York University and Rick Gilmore of The Pennsylvania State University.
  • VCU is a collaborating site
  • Press release  

Sitting Together And Reaching To Play  

  • The purpose of the multi-center clinical trial is to evaluate the efficacy of targeted sitting and reaching intervention to improve developmental outcomes in young children with motor impairments.  Collaborating research site include Duquesne University, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Delaware, University of Washington, and University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
  • Funded by a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, Special Education Research in the Department of Education.
  • Currently closed to enrollment with results coming soon
  • Click here for videos and parent testimonials from the START_Play Study
  • For a list of publication and presentations for this study click here
  • NCT02593825    

Relation between Motor, Cognitive, and Language Skills during Infancy: An Extension of the START-Play Clinical Trial. Children’s Hospital Foundation

  • The purpose of this project is to investigate the relationship between motor, cognitive, and language skills during the development of sitting in typically developing infants.
  • Funded by a grant from the Children Hospital of Richmond Foundation to Emily Marcinowski, PhD with mentorship from Dr. Dusing

Tummy Time and Learn: Associative Learning in Prone

  • As part of her dissertation Tanya Tripathi’s demonstrated that infant 3-6 month old can associate their movement in prone with activation of a toy. PTJ Paper
  • She also documented the feasibility of using an automated play center utilizing operant conditioning to increase prone tolerance and improve motor outcomes.
  • Further research on this project will begin soon.

Does participating in a supervised fitness program extend the benefits of episodic physical therapy more than a home exercise program for adults with cerebral palsy?

  • The purpose of this project is to evaluate the efficacy of a physical fitness program for adults with Cerebral Palsy to maintain mobility and participation gained during an episode of physical therapy.
  • Funded by the Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy as a mentored research grant to Christina Withers, PT, PCS with mentorship from Dr. Dusing
  • Collaboration with Sheltering Arms Rehabilitation
  • Closed to enrollment, results coming soon

Impact of mother-child interaction on development during the first year of life: a systematic review

  • The purpose of this project was to expand our understanding of the role of parent child interaction in the development of typically developing and high risk infants.
  • Funded by Fundação de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP) Post Doctoral Scholarship Award to Nelci Adriana Cicuto Ferreira Rocha.

Project 3IP: Interdisciplinary and Intensive Intervention Preparation for Professionals Serving Young Children with Significant Disabilities (Funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education, U.S. Department of Education)

  • Project 3IP, is a collaboration between the School of Education, Physical Therapy Department, Pediatrics Department, Partnership for People with Disabilities, and community partners
  • The overarching goal of Project 3IP is to increase the quantity, quality and capacity of interdisciplinary early intervention personnel in order to improve the learning and developmental outcomes of infants and young children with significant disabilities.
  • Press release

Interdisciplinary Training for Inclusive Practices (ITIP

  • ITIP is an interdisciplinary program, drawing on the resources and expertise from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Departments of Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy, and Longwood University’s Communication Sciences and Disorder’s program.
  • ITIP is focused on preparing occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech and language pathology students to develop shared competencies in interdisciplinary practice and skills as change agents to build capacity of school personnel to improve outcomes for children with disabilities.
  • Three years of personnel preparation: during their interdisciplinary training year, their clinical year, and their mentorship year (first year of practice) in school settings.
  • Funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education, U.S. Department of Education
  • Press release

Virginia Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program (Funded by the federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau)

  • This leadership program is committed to the preparation of health professionals including graduate students, family members of children with disabilities, and practicing health professionals by enhancing interdisciplinary education in leadership and advocacy.
  • Disciplines represent: Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Language Pathology, Genetic counseling, Nutrition, Pediatricians, Psychologists, Nursing, Special Education, Social workers, Audiology, family mentors, and self-advocacy specialists.
  • Sally Westcott McCoy, PT, PhD - University of Washington, Department of Physical Therapy
  • Regina Harbourne, PT, PHD, PCS - Duquesne University, Department of Physical Therapy
  • James Cole Galloway, PT, Ph.D. – University of Delaware, Department of Physical Therapy
  • Lisa Brown, RN, PhD  at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing
  • Karen Hendricks-Munoz, MD, MPH at Virginia Commonwealth University, Children’s Hospital of Richmond, Neonatology
  • Michele Lobo, PT, PhD at University of Delaware     
  • Christina Withers, PT, PCS – Sheltering Arm Rehabilitation
  • Profa. Dra. Nelci Adriana Cicuto Ferreira Rocha - Universidade Federal de São Carlos
  • Sandra Willett, PT, MS at University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • Amy Harper, MD Virginia Commonwealth University, Children’s Hospital of Richmond, Neurology
  • Greg Vorona, MD Virginia Commonwealth University, Children’s Hospital of Richmond, Radiology
  • James Bovaird, PhD – University of Nebraska Lincoln. College of Education and Human Sciences Educational Psychology
  • Natalie Koziol, Ph.D. – University of Nebraska Lincoln - Nebraska Center For Research On Children, Youth, Families And Schools
  • Karen Adolph – New York University 

Becky Molinini, DPT - PhD student REMS Program

B.A. Physical Education and Health, Concentration: Exercise Science, University of North Carolina a Wilmington, 2006
DPT, Doctor Physical Therapy, University of South Carolina, 2010

Becky has been working with children as a Physical Therapist in the Early Intervention setting for the past 8 years. She began working on her PhD in May 2018 with the long term goal of teaching and performing research on a physical therapy faculty after graduating. Her research interests focus on the relationship between a therapist and both the parent and child as well as the provision of direct physical therapy services in an early intervention setting. Her role in the Motor Development Lab is to assist with data collection on START-Play, data coding of the Early Problem Solving Indicator (EPSI) and to be an interventionist on SPEEDI2. 

Ketaki Inamdar, MS -- PhD student REMS Program

MS Physical therapy (Neurosciences with 'Pediatrics' elective), Manipal University, India, 2016
BS Physical therapy, KLE University, India, 2014

Ketaki practiced as a physical therapist in India for 2 years before joining the Motor Development Lab to work on her PhD. Ketaki’s research interests include examining the effectiveness of functional/task-specific training for postural control in children with or at risk for neurodevelopmental disabilities and its influence on the global child development. She is also interested in studying the role of parental participation in developing and administrating home-programs for postural control improvement. She currently assists with data collection and behavioral coding for the START-Play and SPEEDI2 Studies.

Daniel Russell, B.S. -- Laboratory and Research Technician

B.S. Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University (2018)

Daniel began working in the Motor Development Lab in Summer 2018. His role in the lab is to serve as a secondary assessor in play-based assessment of infants and data coding of the Early Problem Solving Indicator (EPSI) as well as Parent-Child Interaction (PCI). Research interests include communication disorders and child development.  

Sonia Khurana, Ph.D. -- Post Doctoral Fellow

Ph.D. Physical Therapy, Manipal University, India, 2017
M.S. Physical Therapy, (Neurosciences with elective as Pediatrics), Manipal University, India, 2010
B.S. Physical Therapy, Lyallpur Khalsa College, India, 2008

Sonia Khurana initially joined the Motor Development Lab as a VCU Global Visiting Scholar in 2017 with a focus on completing a systematic review on the effect of neonatal Physical Therapy on development of preterm infants. Her research interest includes Neonatal Physical Therapy assessment and intervention with special focus on motor, cognitive and language development. She has a special interest in evaluation of the developmental outcomes and spontaneous movement repertoire of typically developing and preterm infants. She is now a post-doctoral fellow on SPEEDI2 and the SPEEDI_BrainBehavior Study.

Emily Marcinowski, Ph.D. -- Postdoctoral Fellow

Ph.D. Developmental Psychology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 2015
M.A. Developmental Psychology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 2013
B.A. Experimental Psychology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 2008

Emily began working as a postdoctoral fellow in the Motor Development Lab in 2015.  Her research interests include the role of motor asymmetries and skill on the development of play, cognition, and language across early childhood.  She also has an interest in applying advanced statistical methods to understand development and discovering unique ways to describe temporal change.  Emily is an assessor on the START-Play clinical trial.  She is also the Co-Principal Investigator on the Children’s Hospital of Richmond Research Fund Grant (entitled: “Relationship between motor, cognitive and language skills in typically developing infants: An extension of the START-Play clinical trial”) and the Principal Investigator for VCU’s Postdoctoral Career Development Fund (entitled “How does parent-child interaction affect the development of object construction during infancy?”).

Audrey E Kane, Ph.D., OTR/L -- Laboratory and Research Technician

Ph.D., Health Related Sciences, Virginia Commonwealth University (2013)
M.S., Occupational Therapy, Virginia Commonwealth University (1991)
B.A., Biology, Hendrix College (1987)

Audrey joined the Motor Development Lab research team in 2016.  She also is an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Occupational Therapy at Virginia Commonwealth University.  Her research interests include parent-child interactions and how interactions change as a children gain new skills. Audrey assesses intervention fidelity and parent child interactions for START-Play study and will be a blinded assessor for SPEEDI2.

Meagan Miller, CRCC

She is certified as a research coordinator through ACRP (The Association of Clinical Research Professionals) and joined the Motor Development Lab in 2018.  Meagan has worked as a clinical research coordinator since 2009 including on multiple studies in the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Physical Therapy at VCU.  Meagan serves as the study coordinator for SPEEDI2 and SPEEDI_BrainBehavior

Shaaron Brown, PT, DPT – Research Physical Therapist

Shaaron is a board certified pediatric physical therapist with 20+ years of experience working with infants and families.  She has as experience with a variety of settings including the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, follow up clinics, acute care pediatrics.  She has worked on 2 previous SPEEDI studies and the START-Play study.  Shaaron serves as an interventionist on the SPEEDI2 trial. 

Jennifer Pulisic, PT

Jenn is an experience pediatric physical therapist who work at VCUHealth and in a private practice treating infants.  She has extensive experience with infants in and post neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) care.  Jenn will serve as an intervention PT in the SPEEDI2 Trial. 

Megan Evans B.S. - Research Assistant

B.S. Neuroscience, Christopher Newport University (2019)

Megan began working in the Motor Development Lab Summer of 2019 as one of two new research assistants. Her role in the lab is to serve as a secondary assessor in play-based assessment of infants and data coding of Parent-Child Interaction (PCI) for SPEEDI. Her research interests include movement disorders and child development.

Caitlin Hurst B.S. - Research Assistant

B.S. Brain and Behavioral Science, Purdue University (2019)

Caitlin began working in the Motor Development Lab Summer of 2019 as the second research assistant. Her role in the lab is to serve as secondary assessor in play-based assessments of infants and data coding of Parent-Child Interaction (PCI). Her primary research interest is neurodevelopment disorders.

  • Supporting Play Exploration and Early Developmental Intervention Multi-site clinical trial. → (click here)   
  • Play & Learning Across a Year (PLAY). → (click here
  • Physical therapy program offers help for infants with delayed skills → (click here)
  • Interdisciplinary Training for Inclusive Practices Training Grant for PT/OT/ SLP students interested in School Based Services (click here)
  • Supporting Play Exploration and Early Development Intervention From NICU to Home: A Feasibility Study → (click here)
  • START_ Play Videos → (click here)
  • Project 3IP: Interdisciplinary and Intensive Intervention Preparation for Professionals Serving Young Children with Significant Disabilities  (click here)
  • Children’s Hospital of Richmond Go-Baby-Go (click here)
  • Sitting Together and Reaching To - Play featured by the Institute for Education Science, the research funding source → (click here)