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The Human Performance Laboratory (HPL) at Washington University School of Medicine analyzes movements, including gait, of adult and pediatric patients with disabilities using the latest technologies. These technologies include computers, high-speed motion capture systems, force and pressure platforms, electromyography (EMG), and an isokinetic dynamometer (KinCom). The information gathered at the HPL includes descriptions of movements, forces, pressures and torques, as well as the electrical activity of muscles and muscle function. The information provides a better understanding of how patients move and how their movements are different from persons without disabilities. It describes how surgeries and other procedures affect function. It also leads to ideas and inventions that can be developed to improve function.

The HPL is currently examining the biomechanical function and occupational performance of patients with upper extremity injuries. Jack Engsberg, PhD, and occupational therapy doctoral student Bill Janes use a computerized motion capture system to record and measure patients’ arm movements to better understand how the arm works in people with nerve compression syndromes like carpal tunnel and traumatic brachial plexus injuries. It is expected that these methods will soon allow for more rigorous, quantifiable assessments of function and performance after nerve transfer surgeries performed at the center.