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Kathleen Marie Zackowski, Ph.D.

Photo of Dr. Kathleen Marie Zackowski, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Research Interests: Neuromotor disorders

Contact for Research Inquiries

Kennedy Krieger Institute
707 N. Broadway
Baltimore, MD 21205 map
Phone: 443-923-2717

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Dr. Kathleen Zackowski is an associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her area of expertise is evaluating motor control problems that occur as a result of transverse myelitis, multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Dr. Zackowski earned her bachelor of science in occupational therapy from Texas Tech University and went on to complete her master of science in exercise and sport science from the University of Arizona. She worked as an occupational therapist in Texas, Arizona and California for several years before pursuing her doctorate. She completed her Ph.D. in movement science through the program in physical therapy at Washington University in St. Louis and completed her post-doctoral work at the Kennedy Krieger Institute/Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in the Department of Neurology.

Her current studies investigate to what extent nerve fiber changes are associated with changes in physical impairments and walking. At the Kennedy Krieger Institute, she uses state of the art tools to evaluate how the brain and spinal cord control movements such as walking. more


  • Associate Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
  • Associate Professor of Neurology



  • B.S., Texas Tech University (Texas) (1988)
  • Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis (Missouri) (2000)

Additional Training

Washington University, St. Louis, MO, 2001; Kennedy Krieger Institute/Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, 2004, Neurology

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Dr. Zackowski’s research is focused on understanding more clearly how locomotion is controlled. She is interested in the motor control problems that occur as a result of neurodegenerative disease processes such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and adrenomyeloneuropathy (AMN). She has 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."

She capitalizes upon the strengths of the Motion Analysis laboratory in which they have developed quantitative impairment measures of spasticity, ataxia and muscle strength in addition to kinematic measures of walking. A previous study shows evidence that pathologically relevant impairment measures contribute uniquely to patterns of ambulation in individuals with AMN. She is 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.

Dr. Zackowski studies mechanisms of locomotion and its recovery in individuals with MS. The 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.

Dr. Zackowski’s 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 she 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).

Selected Publications

  1. Keller JL, Wang JI, Kang JY, Hanson JA, Kamath P, Raymond GV, Swain JO and Zackowski KM. "Strength: A relevant link to functional performance in the neurodegenerative disease of Adrenomyeloneuropathy." Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, 2012 Nov-Dec. 26(9), 1080-1088.
  2. Jangouk P, Zackowski KM, Naidu S and Raymond GV. "Adrenoleukodystrophy in female heterozygotes: Underrecognized and undertreated." Molecular Genetics and Metabolism, 2012 Feb.105(2), 180-185.
  3. Newsome SD, Kang J, Wang J, Calabresi PA and Zackowski KM. "Quantitative measures detect sensory and motor impairments in multiple sclerosis." Journal of the Neurological Sciences, 2011 Jun 15. 305(1-2), 103-111.
  4. Morton SM, Tseng Y, Zackowski KM, Daline JR and Bastian AJ. "Longitudinal tracking of gait and balance impairments in cerebellar disease." Movement Disorders, 2010 Sep 15. 25(12), 1944-52.
  5. Zackowski KM, Smith SA, Reich DS, Gordon-Lipkin E, Chodkowski BA, Sambandana DR, Shteyman M, Bastian AJ, van Zijl PC. and Calabresi PA. "Sensorimotor dysfunction in multiple sclerosis and column-specific magnetization transfer imaging abnormalities in the spinal cord." Brain, 2009 May.132(5):1200-1209.
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