The Systems Neuroscience and Rehabilitation Lab is directed by Laura McPherson, PT, DPT, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences and the Department of Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering and Computing.

We investigate central nervous system control of movement through study of the motor unit: the key structure that transforms neural commands that converge upon it in the spinal cord into motor output.  Analysis of motor unit discharge provides us with a remarkable window into the central nervous system in humans, providing insight into sensorimotor processing associated with various voluntary movements.

Our primary aim is to identify neural mechanisms that are associated with motor dysfunction following neurological injury so that we can eventually increase patient function by (1) informing the development of targeted, personalized interventions, (2) by elucidating physiologic changes associated with current interventions, and (3) by providing sensitive disease monitoring tools.

Our research includes:

  • Non-invasive measurement of motor unit discharge in multiple muscles simultaneously using high-density surface EMG decomposition
  • Quantifying and characterizing how motor unit discharge
    • is altered in persons with multiple sclerosis or those who have had a stroke compared with individuals without neurological injury
    • varies among muscles with different functional roles (e.g., postural control vs. skilled movements)
  • Determining the ways in which pathological motor unit discharge is associated with clinical motor deficits following injury to the central nervous system
  • Development of novel motor unit analysis methods


 Join us!

SNR is currently recruiting:

  • Graduate students in the Department of Biomedical Engineering interested in computational neuroscience/neural engineering
  • Undergraduate students motivated to gain research experience

Interested applicants can contact Dr. Laura McPherson directly at with CV and statement of interest.