“A Medical Scientist is an Explorer…”

“Theresa: My name is Theresa Sukal-Moultan
and I’m a post-doctoral fellow in the functional and implied bio-mechanics laboratory and I
am working on a project looking at brain organization in children with cerebral palsy. We’re very
interested in this lab in studying movement, dis-coordinated movement following childhood
onset brain injury. My hobbies have always been sports-related
and athletics-related. Certainly, in high school I played a lot of sports. In college,
even though I was an engineering major, I worked in the sports medicine department and
worked with a lot of athletes. So the bio-mechanics of movement is always something that I’ve
been interested in and I think that’s part of what led me to look at physical therapy
as a different avenue of investigation in a different kind of viewpoint of movement
disorders. We measure brain organization and activity using something called Functional
Near Infrared Spectroscopy to monitor which areas of the brain are the most active during
different tasks. So, we use the motion capture system within the laboratory to monitor how
they’re doing an activity and then we use the lights to monitor why the activity it
being done that way or which areas of the brain are the most active when different tasks
are being completed. So, for a full setup for when somebody comes
in here, it takes about 40 minutes to an hour to set it up and then depending on the number
of tasks that we ask them to do, it’s about another hour or so of testing. Each task takes
about six minutes, so it depends on how many tasks we’re asking them to do. So this sensor
will measure the electrical activity occurring under there. Those cameras, as long as two
of them can identify the marker in space, they can triangulate and locate the position
of the markers within the lab. Any questions? Speaker 2: Nope.
Theresa: Okay great. My goal is to be an independent investigator and I’m really fascinated by
this line of inquiry looking at how the brain works and how does it work when there’s an
injury, particularly early in development. You know, what happens and why do we move
the way that we do because of that injury? So, I see myself finding other people that
have similar interests the way that I have here with other post-ocs, with other independent
investigators and working within maybe a research network kind of an idea. I think it’d be very
difficult to solve the problem of brain injuries. It’s something that other investigators that
are very smart are working on but I’m not sure that’s something that we’ll see in our
lifetime. So, I’m really working on understanding how does the brain adapt to those injuries
and can we modify the adaptation in a way that’s most advantageous to the patient?
Very grateful to the mentors that I’ve had and the training that I’ve received over time.
So, I see myself as hoping to pass that forward to future scientists as they are doing their
training. So, I’d love to work with young people coming up and mentor them inside of
my laboratory eventually.