MUSC The Catalyst
MUSC arial view


MUSC Medical Links Charleston Links Archives Catalyst Advertisers Seminars and Events Research Studies Public Relations Research Grants Catalyst PDF File MUSC home page Community Happenings Campus News Applause

MUSC Medical Links Charleston Links Archives Catalyst Advertisers Seminars and Events Research Studies Public Relations Research Grants MUSC home page Community Happenings Campus News Applause


Chair to head world-class research center

by Dawn Brazell
Public Relations
It turns out the ’80s oil bust was a good thing for MUSC’s College of Health Professions, but it would take a few decades to become apparent.
Dr. Steven Kautz shows one of his simulations that reveals how the activity of one calf muscle influences all segments in the body during normal walking through the use of realistic mathematical models.

The bust put Steven A. Kautz, Ph.D., who then held a Bachelor of Science in geophysics, on a path to becoming a biomechanics and neurosciences researcher. His studies led him into the field of rehabilitation, with him earning a doctorate in biomedical engineering from the University of California, Davis. Kautz said he loved finding out that he could apply his expertise in mathematical analysis and computer simulations to the clinical setting to change the way therapy could be done.
Coming to MUSC in July as chair of the Department of Health Sciences and Research at the College of Health Professions (CHP), Kautz said it’s an exciting time to be doing rehabilitation research given the progress in technology and neurosciences.
One of his specialty areas is stroke rehabilitation, with him examining the effect on a person’s ability to move after blockage of the blood vessels in the brain happens.
“When a clinician sees a patient right now, they don’t have specific measurements that say this system isn’t functioning well. They can say this person walks slowly, but they don’t necessarily know if they walk slowly because of the way their neural system for balance is working or just the general level of activation. There are all these different things that could be what is wrong, but they don’t really have the tools to discern between those.”
Kautz wants to continue research that will give doctors and therapists the theoretical framework and measurements toolbox they need to know the most effective treatment, custom-tailored to a patient’s specific impairment. That’s one reason he decided to leave his position as professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and program coordinator of the movement science track in the Rehabilitation Science Doctoral program at the University of Florida in Gainesville to come to MUSC.
Attracted to MUSC because of its goal to create an interdisciplinary, world-class research center, Kautz is eager to begin work in CHP’s newly renovated laboratory space totaling 5,500 square-feet. The labs will feature an instrumented split-belt treadmill that can measure 3-D ground reaction forces, a Vicon motion-capture system that allows human movement data to be collected at up to 242 frames a second, a one-of-a-kind perturbation system for investigating balance during walking, and a high-tech, computer controlled body-weight support system that assists someone walking over the ground or on a treadmill. When the laboratory is completed in November, the resources in place will be among the best in the country for rehabilitation research, he said.
Mark Sothmann, Ph.D., interim vice president for academic affairs and provost, said Kautz brings with him a nationally recognized research program in neuro-rehabilitation and extensive experience through his work with one of the nation’s best doctoral programs in rehabilitation sciences at the University of Florida.
He also brings with him the designation as a Veterans Affairs (VA) Research Career Scientist, of which there are only 174 nationwide. In addition to his primary appointment in CHP, Kautz also will have a joint appointment with the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, and affiliations with the MUSC Department of Neurosciences and the Clemson University-MUSC Joint Bioengineering Program. Kautz said the multiple appointments support the multidisciplinary nature of his research and the future direction of CHP-based research, featuring collaborative work in stroke rehabilitation research with the MUSC Center of Economic Excellence on Stroke Research and multiple other entities.
Kautz said his joint appointment with VA Medical Center is critical.
“The VA is the No. 2 funder of rehabilitation research next to the NIH. It’s a great funding source as far as being able to build a research program. It turned out that here, they really embraced having a VA appointment and a MUSC appointment and building a research program at both the same time. They saw it the same way I saw it—as a big win-win situation.”
One goal Kautz has is to change stroke rehabilitation’s “one-size-fits- all” type approach, he said. Now that technology offers ways to study the brain in real time, researchers can start to answer questions that would improve the effectiveness of therapy. For example, he hopes that in the future EEG technology can help him examine brain activity during the gait cycle to see how the brain interacts during the process.
“Does someone who has had a stroke need to recruit their brain more to do something that used to be done by the spinal cord because that pathway is dysfunctional? Is that why it becomes so mentally taxing for people to walk? How does the nervous system learn a new motor pattern?”
These will be some of the questions being studied, especially in conjunction with MUSC’s strong neurosciences program and growing bioengineering efforts, he said. Kautz envisions building up a stroke rehabilitation community in the next decade.
“I see us having a critical mass of people doing rehabilitation research, where we’re known on the international scene as a place that does some of the best neuro-rehabilitation research. We’ll be collaborating extensively with clinical neurosciences and the stroke neurologists and the basic neurosciences. We’ll be collaborating with the bioengineers to develop new robotic applications that would allow us to do different kinds of therapy that we haven’t been able to do before.”
Kautz said CHP is a natural home for him in these efforts because his first commitment is providing therapists with better tools to improve the quality of life for patients.
“We want to make sure that we can understand when someone comes in what their strengths and deficits for being able to change is, and put all of those pieces together to get the best outcomes for these people.”

CHP's new faces
The following are newcomers to the College of Health Professions:

Jesse Dean, Ph.D.
Research interests: Experimental investigation of the mechanics, control, and energetics of human movement, particularly locomotion; Simulation of human movement through computational modeling; Investigation of nervous system properties through electrical stimulation of peripheral nerves; Development of rehabilitation techniques for populations with movement disorders

Heather Shaw Bonilha, Ph.D.
Research interests: Improving the diagnostic accuracy and treatment of people with voice and swallowing disorders

Noelle G. Moreau, Ph.D.
Research interests: Use of ultra-sound imaging to investigate muscle architectural plasti-city in response to interventions in cerebral palsy; Development of effective rehabilitation strategies to enhance muscle function and quality of life in people with cerebral palsy; Mechanisms underlying abnormal force production in people with cerebral palsy and other movement disorders, such as stroke; 3-D Gait analysis of abnormal movement patterns in cerebral palsy and other movement disorders, such as stroke

Lee L. Saunders, Ph.D.
Research interests: Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury (SCI); Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI); Current projects: Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Secondary Conditions in Individuals with SCI; Center on Health Outcomes Research and Capacity Building for Underserved Populations with SCI and TBI

Mark Bowden, Ph.D.
Research interests: Understanding clinical decision-making relative to locomotor interventions; Designing clinical treatments in response to improved understanding of underlying factors related to impaired walking; Translation of biomechanical laboratory findings into non-laboratory assessments and clinical intervention

Chris Gregory, Ph.D.
Research interests: Skeletal muscle physiology; Current projects: VA Career Development Award examining the impact of skeletal muscle energetics on the metabolic cost of walking post-stroke

Michelle Woodbury, Ph.D.
Research interests: The recovery of arm/hand movement and function in persons who have had neurologic injury or disease; Provide neuro-rehabilitation occupational and physical therapists with efficient methods for measuring arm/hand movement impairment and recovery in persons with stroke

Friday, Aug. 20, 2010

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.