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Dr. Kathleen M. Zackowski

Dr. Kathleen M. Zackowski

Assistant Professor

Biographical sketch

B.S. Texas Tech University, 1988
M.S. University of Arizona, 1991
Ph.D. Washington University in St. Louis, 2000
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Washington University, 2000-2001
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Johns Hopkins University, Kennedy Krieger Institute, 2002-2004

Research Interests

My research is focused on understanding more clearly how locomotion is controlled. I am particularly interested in the motor control problems that occur as a result of neurodegenerative disease processes such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and adrenomyeloneuropathy (AMN).  I have recently been funded by the Dana Foundation  for "Evaluation of white matter fiber tracts in the brain and their relationship to recovery of locomotion during an acute exacerbation of multiple sclerosis." 

In my studies I capitalize upon the strengths of the Motion Analysis laboratory in which we have developed quantitative impairment measures of spasticity, ataxia and muscle strength in addition to kinematic measures of walking. In a previous study I show evidence that pathologically relevant impairment measures contribute uniquely to patterns of ambulation in individuals with AMN. We are further developing this type of pathologically relevant impairment model so that it can be used to track disease progression in people with AMN. Studies with this population are ongoing.

I also study mechanisms of locomotion and its recovery in individuals with MS. My studies address the gap in the knowledge of how recovery after an acute exacerbation of MS affects mechanisms of locomotion. Despite the fact that MS is a common neurodegenerative disease, progress towards understanding the mechanisms responsible for recovery has been hampered by the disease’s highly heterogeneous pathology and symptoms. My studies will use quantitative measures of impairments and ambulation in conjunction with imaging measures of neural connectivity to evaluate locomotion and its recovery in individuals with MS. Through collaborations with the Kirby Imaging Center in the Kennedy Krieger Institute I will be able to use novel imaging tools to test the association between pathologically relevant axonal damage and the recovery of locomotion following an acute episode in MS. These associations are critical to our understanding of how neuropathology and functional mobility are related and will improve our understanding of the mechanisms involved in the recovery of locomotion. The information gained in this study will allow us to begin to predict which people will recover best after an acute exacerbation. We will also have a scientific basis for classifying different subtypes of individuals with MS that could then be used to evaluate the likely efficacy of different rehabilitative or pharmacological therapies. It will also allow us to determine if there are subgroups that might benefit from different, specific types of physical or occupational therapy (e.g., training aimed at “learning” a more normal walking pattern versus training via compensatory measures).


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