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Jaynie Yang, PhD

Interim Chair & Professor

Rehabilitation Medicine | Medicine & Dentistry

Physical Therapy

About Me

Credentials

  • Post-doctoral fellowship - Neuroscience - University of Alberta -1987 to 1989
  • PhD - Kinesiology - University of Waterloo - 1987
  • BSc - Physical Therapy - Queen’s University - 1978

Background

  • Graduated from Queen’s University with a BSc in physical therapy and practiced as a physical therapist for two years, one year each at a rehabilitation hospital (Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Hospital), and an acute hospital (Toronto Western Hospital). 
  • Interest in the science behind physical therapy took Yang back to school for graduate work at the University of Waterloo, completing a PhD in kinesiology with Dr. David Winter, focusing on the biomechanics of walking. 
  • Completed post-doctoral fellowship in neuroscience with Dr. Richard Stein at the University of Alberta
  • Joined the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Alberta in January, 1990.
  • Other appointments at the University of Alberta include the Neuroscience & Mental Health Institute, and the Department of Biomedical Engineering.
  • Besides research and teaching, Yang has served as Graduate Coordinator for the thesis program, and Acting Chair of the Department of Physical Therapy on various occasions. 



Research

Professional Interests

Dr. Yang is interested in how the nervous system controls movements in general, and walking in particular. Specific topics include: 

1) The neural control walking in humans, and how that control changes after injury to the central nervous system.

2) How can we optimize the retrain of walking in adults with spinal cord injury and young children with perinatal stroke?

3) How do children learn walking related tasks, and how is that different from adults?

Current Research

Early, intensive motor training in children with perinatal brain injury

Children who suffer injury to the brain before or around the time of birth live with the deficits of this injury for a life time.  Yang is interested in whether early, intensive motor training might reduce these deficits. The work is based on animal studies that show there is a critical period early in life, in which activity/training is most effective.  A two-centre, randomized controlled trial is currently underway in Edmonton and Calgary to test this idea. 

Learning new walking patterns in young children

Infants can step on a split-belt treadmill with the 2 belts running at different speeds or different directions well before they develop independent walking. Like adults, the infants learn to walk more symmetrically on the split-belts over time. Yang is interested in when this learning first appears, and how it develops in early childhood.

Neural mechanisms underlying the retraining of walking in adults with spinal cord injury

Different types of training methods induce different types of neuroplasticity (i.e., changes in the nervous system).  Yang and her collaborators are currently studying how training with powered exoskeletons, such as the ReWalk and Ekso, changes the nervous system and improves function. 


Teaching

Jaynie Yang, PhD, is a graduate student supervisor in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, the Biomedical Engineering Department, and the Neuroscience & Mental Health Institute.