BME Distinguished Lecture Series: "Biomechanics and the Upper Limb: Compelling Questions, Clinical Impact, and Basic Science" by Wendy M. Murray, PhD, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Northwestern University

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Monday, April 08, 2019
4:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Floor/Room #: 
Wendy M. Murray, PhD, Professor
Departments of Biomedical Engineering, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation,
and Physical Therapy & Human Movement Studies,
Northwestern University
Shirley Ryan Ability Lab (formerly the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago)

Abstract: The upper limb extends from the shoulder to the hand, and includes the shoulder, elbow, forearm, and wrist joints, as well as an additional 15 joints in the fingers and thumb. Completion of activities of daily living often involves postural changes at multiple joints simultaneously, and the challenge of coordinating functional movements is further complicated by the fact that many of the muscles in the upper limb cross and actuate multiple degrees of freedom. Biomechanical modeling, together with both static and dynamic simulation techniques, plays a critical role in the advancement of our understanding of function in the upper limb, with and without impairment. There are important challenges associated with simulating hand and arm movements, including the fact that the typical, functional movements performed using the upper limb are not cyclic and tend to be less stereotyped compared to the types of motions (e.g., gait) for which many popular simulation methodologies have been developed. Similarly, a relative paucity of applicable experimental data can slow the development of effective simulation studies, as interested biomechanists must often also simultaneously design the experimental studies needed in order to have any data to which they can compare their results. Overall, general scientific skepticism of conclusions drawn from simulation studies is a major challenge for simulation of any type of human movement. Despite these challenges, the advances in the field of biomechanical simulation present important opportunities for improving our understanding of neuromuscular control, impairment, and rehabilitation of the human upper limb. Especially considering the complexity and diversity of the types of movements we complete, insights derived from biomechanical simulation studies can provide focus. In my laboratory, the quantitative anatomy embedded in our models has helped us to generate new hypotheses and better define the experimental studies needed to test them, given the complexity of the system being tested. Similarly, we regularly use model-based approaches to integrate experimental results from multiple sources, broadening our overall understanding of the data. This last piece has proven especially important in translation of our research to clinicians. In general, modeling and simulation provide an important opportunity to advance the types of questions we can ask about upper limb function.

Biography: Dr. Murray is Full Professor at Northwestern University with appointments in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences. She is the Director of the Applied Research in Musculoskeletal Simulation (ARMS) laboratory at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (formerly Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago), where she is appointed as a Research Scientist; she also holds an appointment as a Research Health Scientist at the Edward Hines VA Medical Center. Dr. Murray received her Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the University of Notre Dame in 1990. She obtained her M.S. and Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Northwestern University. She completed post-doctoral training in Biomedical Engineering at the Cleveland FES Center at Case Western Reserve University, where she was named an NIDRR Mary Switzer Fellow. From 2000 to 2006, she developed an NIH-funded research program as an independent investigator for the Department of Veterans Affairs at the VA Palo Alto. She joined the Northwestern faculty in 2007.
The foundation for Dr. Murray’s work is the development of biomechanical models that accurately represent the mechanical actions of the upper extremity muscles. The models and corresponding anatomical databases that Dr. Murray has shared with the scientific community have been cited hundreds of times. The main thrust of her current research is the application of these models to better understand and, ultimately, to help improve function of the disabled upper limb. Her work has relevance over a broad scope, including basic motor control, the design of control systems for exoskeletons and upper limb prosthetics, restoration of hand and arm function following cervical spinal cord injury, rehabilitation of hand and arm function following stroke, orthopaedic interventions for osteoarthritis, and prevention of injuries in baseball pitching. In addition to the NIH and VA investigator-initiated award funding that has enabled her research program to thrive, the trainees in her program have been awarded support from NIH, NSF, the Neilsen Foundation, the De Luca Foundation, and the American Heart Association. She is a member-at-large of the Executive Board of the US National Committee on Biomechanics and is Past-President of the American Society of Biomechanics.


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