Motor Development Laboratory

Lab director

Stacey Dusing, PT, Ph.D.

The mission of the Motor Development Lab is to investigate the development of motor control and coordination in infants and young children with and without disabilities as well as the impact of physical therapy treatment on motor development. The laboratory is located in the VCU Department of Physical Therapy and encompasses 300 square feet dedicated to the assessment of infants and children. The Motor Development Lab includes equipment and space for biomechanical, behavioral and clinical research assessments.


  • Video processing and behavioral coding computers
  • Motion Monitor System: for recording, synchronizing and analyzing data.
  • Bertec Non-conductive Force Plate.
  • Electromyography (EMG) System: Run Technologies 8 Channel Myopac Jr.
  • Tekscan Conformat Pressure mapping system.
  • Data reduction and analysis software: Matlab.
  • Many standardized assessment tools for assessing motor development in infants and children.

Current projects

Sitting Together And Reaching To Play (START-PLAY)

  • The purpose of the multi-center clinical trial is to evaluate the efficacy of targeted sitting and reaching intervention to improve developmental outcomes in young children with motor impairments.  Collaborating research site include Duquesne University, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Delaware, University of Washington, and University of Nebraska, Lincoln. 
  • Funded by a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, Special Education Research in the Department of Education.      

Relation Between Motor, Cognitive, and Language Skills during Infancy: An Extension of the START-Play Clinical Trial. Children’s Hospital Foundation

  • The purpose of this project is to investigate the relationship between motor, cognitive, and language skills during the development of sitting in typically developing infants.
  • Funded by a grant from the Children Hospital of Richmond Foundation to Emily Marcinowski, PhD with mentorship from Dr. Dusing

Supporting Play, Exploration, & Early Development Intervention (SPEEDI) for Infants Born Preterm: An Initial Efficacy Study.

  • The purpose of this study is to evaluate the initial efficacy of a novel intervention for infant born preterm or with neonatal brain injury.  Infant begin intervention in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and continue for the first 3 months after NICU discharge.  Parents provide all of the intervention with the support of a therapist. This project will help to determine if providing early and intense intervention to high risk infants will enhance motor and cognitive development.
  • Funded by a Foundation for Physical Therapy Pediatric Research Grant and a Children Hospital of Richmond Foundation Research Grant.

Associative Learning in Prone: A Dissertation

  • The two purposes of Tanya Tripathi’s dissertation project are to determine if infant can demonstrate associate learning in prone and to evaluated the feasibility of using an automated play center utilizing operant conditioning to increase prone tolerance and improve motor outcomes

Does participating in a supervised fitness program extend the benefits of episodic physical therapy more than a home exercise program for adults with cerebral palsy?

  • The purpose of this project is to evaluate the efficacy of a physical fitness program for adults with Cerebral Palsy to maintain mobility and participation gained during an episode of physical therapy.
  • Funded by the Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy as a mentored research grant to Christina Withers, PT, PCS with mentorship from Dr. Dusing
  • Collaboration with Sheltering Arms Rehabilitation (hyper link to

Impact of mother-child interaction on development during the first year of life: a systematic review

  • The purpose of this project was to expand our understanding of the role of parent child interaction in the development of typically developing and high risk infants.
  • Funded by Fundação de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP) Post Doctoral Scholarship Award to Nelci Adriana Cicuto Ferreira Rocha.

Infant Move Study: Postural Control and Reaching Development in Preterm Infants

  • The purpose of this project is to evaluate the influences of complexity in postural control on reaching and motor development in infants who were born preterm and are at risk for developmental disability. This research will advance our understanding how infants with and without disabilities learn to control their posture and how that influences their development. This project will aid in the development of interventions to improve postural control in infants at risk for developmental delays.
  • Funded by a grant from the AD Williams Research Grant, Virginia Commonwealth University.

Parent Education Strategies in the NICU

  • The purpose of this study is to modify parent education practices in the NICU to improve parent engagement and provide developmental information to support the infant and family. This project is being done in collaboration with the NICU at Children's Hospital of Richmond (CHoR) at the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System.


Graduate Students

  • Lois Phillips-Pula, RN, PhD. VCU Nursing Graduate. December 2011.
  • Michael O'Grady. VCU Rehabilitation Movement Sciences Ph.D. Program.
  • Tanya Tripathi - VCU Rehabilitation Movement Sciences Ph.D. Program.

Post-Doctoral Researchers

  • Profa. Dra. Nelci Adriana Cicuto Ferreira Rocha - Universidade Federal de São Carlos  with a link to
  • Emily Marcinowski, PhD


Stacey Dusing’s PubMed Publication List:


Media and Video Abstract Links: