Research Labs

Motor Behavior Research Program

As part of LSU’s One Health Initiative, the University is committed to having a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of citizens in Louisiana and across the globe. Engaging in research focused on the learning and performance of coordinated movement, the faculty in the Motor Behavior specialization work with people of various ages across the lifespan to better understand, maintain, and/or improve the well-being of healthy individuals and people with neurological deficits due to natural aging, injury, and disease. We also prepare students for careers as practitioners, researchers, and scholars. 

Director: Nikita Kuznetsov, PhD

The researchers in the lab aim to understand basic principles of motor control in healthy individuals and develop novel motor assessment tools and rehabilitation protocols to improve motor function in individuals recovering from neurological trauma. We conduct detailed measurements of motion, forces, and muscle activation patterns to understand how humans learn to perform novel complex skills and coordinate movements of their limbs.

Recent work in the lab has focused on developing a guitar-based active music-supported therapy for improving arm and hand motor function in individuals recovering from a stroke, gait patterns in runners, and upper coordination during walking.

Director: Emily Marcinowski, PhD

The primary purpose of the UP Lab is to understand the mechanisms for how motor milestones and object play impact the development of cognition and language skills. We primarily study infants and children younger than 3 years of age, as well as infants with neuromotor disorders, such as cerebral palsy or genetic disorders. We use longitudinal designs, meaning we see the same children over multiple visits to assess their progress. 

The UP Lab uses behavioral observation and developmental assessments as its primary methodologies to accommodate the unique needs of young children. We code children’s behavior using behavioral coding software (Noldus Observer XT, datavyu), which requires extensive effort to code (typically 15 minutes of video footage requires 1-1.5 hours to code). The UP Lab employs undergraduate and graduate students to code, manage large amounts of video data, and analyze large, longitudinal datasets. Thus, we provide extensive, hands-on training to LSU students in research, assessment, and pediatric populations, as well as accomplishing our research goals. 

Director: Marc Dalecki, PhD

One of the main MoBeCoLab researcher’s goals is to better understand how the human brain controls movements and cognition. The laboratory is equipped to assess various aspects of motor behavior and cognitive functions, mostly via the interaction of the upper limbs and the eyes with touchscreens, displays, joysticks, virtual reality headsets, and keyboards. In addition to promoting motor behavior and cognition research, the MoBeCoLab is used for undergraduate and graduate hands-on instruction, providing LSU students with valuable real-world experience. 

A long-term goal of the MoBeCoLab’s research is to develop intervention strategies and rehabilitation tools that counteract age-, injury-, and disease-related performance declines. Another goal is improving cognitive-motor functions of elite performers such as athletes or astronauts. Recent work is focusing on the effects of mild traumatic brain injury (concussion) on essential cognitive-motor functions in college students, and on improving decision making and eye-hand coordination of elite football players with virtual reality settings.

Director: Arend Van Gemmert, PhD

The FMCL researchers focus on how individuals are able to perform and (re)learn everyday manual tasks, like drawing, handwriting, pointing, and grasping objects. Although these tasks are performed seemingly effortless, challenges to the individual’s motor system as result of cognitive, environmental, and/or physiologic stress may diminish the efficiency of movements needed to perform these tasks. Furthermore, these challenges may get exacerbated as result of physiologic deterioration due to advanced age, neurological disease, and/or trauma. In addition, the FMCL aims to understand motor learning to enhance protocols and treatments to alleviate some of the challenges to the motor system as result of fore mentioned factors and to improve motor task performance in general.

Current projects include learning to adapt movement control in novel environments, practice protocol to enhance batting efficiency in baseball, and the use of a novel device to improve movement control of individuals with essential tremor. 

Director: Jan Hondzinski, PhD

The ability to coordinate movements is essential to the human experience. Whether young or experienced, the abilities to work, play, and live require control of various parts of the body. Researchers in this lab study motor control and sensorimotor which involve the movement of multiple body segments, including the eyes, upper limbs, and lower limbs, with an emphasis on tasks requiring whole body movements. Studies involve the effects of gaze direction, sensory alterations, sensory cueing, fatigue, exoskeleton use, or neurodegeneration on movements of the body. The results of the experiments are used to identify coordination strategies of healthy people and contribute to the basic understanding of sensory use and movement variations effects on movement control. Such information is used to improve training regimes or expand rehabilitation strategies for individuals with deficits due to normal aging or pathology such as vestibular loss, peripheral neuropathy, and Parkinson’s disease.

Exercise Physiology Research Program

As part of LSU’s One Health Initiative, the University is committed to having a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of citizens in Louisiana and across the globe. This mission is exemplified by the research and outreach conducted in the Exercise Physiology Laboratories, where faculty and graduate students alike study the exercise response throughout the lifespan in healthy adults, athletes, military personnel, astronauts and elderly civilians in order to improve performance, resilience and overall health. This research is supported by various federal funding agencies, including the NIH, NASA, and the DoD. The Exercise Physiology Research Area consists of five laboratories with distinct, yet complementary missions.

Director: Neil Johannsen, PhD

Equipped with state-of-the-art equipment to measure body composition (including Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry imaging, 3D body scanners, and electrical bioimpedance analysis scales). The BCL operates in close collaboration with LSU Athletics and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Research conducted in the BCL helps track changes in muscle mass and bone density in all LSU athletes in response to training, thus providing them with an unmatched competitive edge over their competitors. The BCL also tracks change in muscle mass and bone density in older adults at risk for chronic diseases to identify and test novel therapies to reduce frailty and improve bone mineral density in the elderly.

Director: Brian Irving, PhD

The VML has established state-of-the-art non-invasive methods to measure in vivo vascular function (e.g., ultra-sonography, pulse wave velocity) and muscle metabolism (near-infrared spectroscopy). These groundbreaking techniques enable the collection of novel data on muscle and circulatory health, without the need for expensive and invasive clinical procedures. Ongoing projects include assessing the short-term impact of blood flow restricted (BFR) resistance exercise on skeletal muscle metabolism and assessing whether BFR combined with neuromuscular stimulation can prevent the disuse atrophy. Research in the VML also examines the alterations in vascular function and central blood pressure responses to acute and chronic exercise in young and older adults and those with vascular diseases including hypertension and diabetes.

Directors: Guillaume Spielmann, PhD and Brian Irving, PhD

The IBL hosts federally-funded research aimed at harvesting the benefits of acute and chronic exercise to improve muscle, immune and whole-body metabolism to reduce the risk for muscle loss, frailty and mortality in older adults using safe, economical and efficient non-pharmaceutical therapeutic approaches. Other research projects focus on using exercise as an adjuvant for cancer immunotherapy, and to improve immune response to breast cancer cells. In addition, researchers in the IBL study the effects of stress and spaceflight on immune function with, for the first time at LSU, an ongoing research project assessing the impact of 1-year mission in the International Space Station on the immune function of astronauts. 

Another fascinating area of research in our labs includes the isolation, quantification, and characterization of exosomes, small particles that are released into the blood from tissues (e.g., skeletal muscle) and help coordinate tissue to tissue signaling (e.g., skeletal muscle to liver).

Director: Neil Johannsen, PhD

The Environmental Chamber at LSU enables research to be conducted on the effects of sustained heat and humidity on cardiovascular function and performance in athletes and military personnel. Furthermore, the Environmental Chamber is used to design effective countermeasures to heat-stress to be used by collegiate and tactical athletes (rapid cooling of extremities etc…) exposed to extreme environments.

Directors: Heather Allaway, PhD; Neil Johannsen, PhD; Brian Irving, PhD; and Guillaume Spielmann, PhD

The Exercise Testing Laboratory is equipped with a myriad of equipment to assess the physiological response to exercise in individuals ranging from sedentary to recreational and elite athletes (Aerobic Fitness, EKG, Metabolic Rate etc.). In addition to promoting exercise physiology research, the ETL is used for undergraduate and graduate hands-on instruction, providing LSU students with valuable real-world experience. 

Director: Heather Allaway, PhD

The SBL contains a myriad of equipment to explore the integrative physiology of the skeleton. The SBL equipment is used to prepare and analyze human and animal skeletal tissue samples at the cellular level and in conjunction with the IBL, VML, BCL, and the micro-computed tomography lab and histology preparation facility at the School of Veterinary Medicine assist in fully explaining the observed skeletal responses. Serum samples analyzed in the IBL can be incorporated into the data gathered with the equipment in the SBL to provide a more complete picture of the integrative physiology of the skeleton. In conjunction with the IBL and BCL, the SBL can be used to test novel therapies to reduce frailty and improve skeletal health in multiple populations

Director: Heather Allaway, PhD

The WPRL conducts research aimed at maximizing the health of women across the lifespan on Earth and in space. Research projects in the lab focus on how physiological and psychological stressors (e.g., exercise, diet, hormonal contraception) lead to perturbations in reproductive function and the impact altered reproductive function has on other critical physiologic systems (e.g., musculoskeletal, immune, cardiovascular) and athletic performance. Researchers in the WPRL are trained to develop scientific studies to assess physiologic responses in a clinical and basic science manner. Depending on the study, research at the WPRL involves working with both human and animal research participants to understand all factors associated with the physiologic response.

The research conducted in the WPRL utilizes the techniques and equipment of the six research laboratory spaces in a complementary manner to explore the whole-body physiologic responses of women within different studies. Additionally, we work with other research groups within the School of Kinesiology to highlight gender differences in research studies and expand the inclusion of women in research as study participants. We are actively working to develop collaborations and connections within LSU and the community to expand the research of the WPRL to include transgender and non-binary persons and make LSU a leader in research involving all aspects of gender differences research. 

Pedagogy and Psychological Sciences Research Program

The LSU School of Kinesiology Pedagogy and Psychological Sciences research program dedicates itself to promoting health and wellbeing in local, state, national, and international populations. Research conducted in the Pedagogy and Psychological Sciences Laboratories aims to create interventions and discover translational solutions that optimize quality of life across the lifespan. We strive to address health issues by establishing meaningful partnerships with schools, government agencies, local citizens, nonprofit organizations, and community businesses. The Pedagogy and Psychological Sciences research area includes three collaborative laboratories to achieve its missions.

Director: Ryan Hulteen, PhD

A prerequisite for living an active, healthy lifestyle is developing the skill competencies to participate in a wide array of activities (e.g., run, throw, rising from your seat). Across the lifespan, the skills we use or require changes, thus the goal of the M-SAIL is to better understand when skill development occurs and what can be done about these changes. This work is done from both a measurement and intervention perspective. We strive to identify skill deficiencies efficiently and quickly, then implement interventions to improve skill competencies. The long-term goal of our work is to create feasible, translatable programs and environments which cultivate physical health and motor skill development. Previous work in this lab has led to interventions which promote leadership and skill development in elementary school students, promoting physically active physical education for adolescents, or providing online, virtually delivered classes to older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. Success in our lab means seeing individuals live healthy, independent lives regardless of their age. 

Director: Senlin Chen, PhD

The PK Lab is focused on examining factors contributing to K-12 students’ competence and confidence related to life-time physical activity and wellness. Many factors may facilitate or hinder students’ learning both in and out of the schools: curriculum, environment and context, teacher, pedagogy, resources, personal attributes and characteristics, as well as broader sociocultural conditions. As a result, a major emphasis of the projects within the PK Lab has been on the developing and testing of theory-driven curriculum and programming interventions to advance healthful-living in youth. To achieve this, the PK Lab has been involved in multiple funded, interdisciplinary intervention projects. With support from the NIH, USDA, SHAPE, and other grant sources, the PK Lab has successfully developed several evidence-based interventions (i.e., SWITCH PE, SWITCH-MS, HIIT PE 1.0, & HIIT PE 2.0). These interventions were field-tested in thousands of students from dozens of schools. In the first decade of its history, the PK Lab has produced over 60 research papers and 100 presentations. It is equipped with four data processing workstations and a variety of equipment and resources needed to carry the missions of research and instruction in pedagogical kinesiology. The PK Lab has involved numerous graduate and undergraduate students in research and independent studies, which has contributed to the research intensive atmosphere of the School of Kinesiology. 

Director: Alex Garn, PhD

Motivation is a key psychological factor that shapes the way people think as well as their actions. In many cases, motivation is an X factor that helps explain why some people achieve their goals while others do not. The Advancements in Motivation Science (AIMS) laboratory investigates how motivation can improve health, personal well-being, and success across diverse settings. Specifically, we systematically examine how motivational factors can be used to improve one’s life. We focus on how motivation can enrich health behaviors such as physical activity, enhance physical fitness and body composition, improve sport performance, optimize mental health (i.e., increase positive emotions; decrease negative emotions), and advance academic functioning. Research from the AIMS lab receives widespread attention nationally and internationally with over 15,000 downloads and 480 citations in 2020 alone. 

Photo Gallery: Laboratory Spaces

photo of table, chairs and children's toy on the tablephoto of room with computers and chairsphoto of room with couch, colorful rug and mat, and shelf of toysphoto of a fully instrumented Bertec treadmill and treadmill cave

photo of room with tables and computersphoto of VR goggle apparatus and computer


Media Feature: Tracking data, eye tests, sodium levels: The Story of Jack Marucci and LSU's 'performance innovation' gurus (read here)

Article: Honoring P.J. Mills, Jr. a Legacy of Service (read here)

Article: LSU's Human Anatomy Lab: Where the Science of Anatomy Meets the Art of Medicine (read here)

Article: Hi-Def Valley: LSU Grad Students Make Tiger Stadium a VR Training Tool (read here)

Media Feature: No 1 in this, too. LSU collaborates with Pennington to change sports science. (read here)

Article: LSU Discover Scholar Researching the Effects of Concussions on Young Adults (read here)