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 and cognitive 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.
  • Clich here for videos and parent testimonials from the START_Play Study      

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.

Tummy Time and Learn: Associative Learning in Prone – A Dissertation

  • The two purposes of Tanya Tripathi’s dissertation project is 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.

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.


  • Sally Westcott McCoy, PT, PhD - University of Washington, Department of Physical Therapy
  • Regina Harbourne, PT, PHD, PCS - Duquesne University
  • Nick Stergiou, Ph.D. – University of Nebraska Omaha,  Director of the HPER Biomechanics Laboratory
  • James Cole Galloway, PT, Ph.D. – University of Delaware, Department of Physical Therapy
  • Lisa Brown, RN, PhD  at Virginia Commonwealth University 
  • Karen Hendricks-Munoz, MD, MPH at Virginia Commonwealth University 
  • Michele Lobo, PT, PhD at University of Delaware     
  • Christina Withers, PT, PCS – Sheltering Arm Rehabilitation
  • Profa. Dra. Nelci Adriana Cicuto Ferreira Rocha - Universidade Federal de São Carlos
  • Sandra Willett, PT, MS at University of Nebraska Medical Center

Graduate Students

  • Lois Phillips-Pula, RN, PhD. VCU Nursing Graduate. December 2011.
  • Tanya Tripathi - VCU Rehabilitation Movement Sciences Ph.D. Program. Anticipated 2018

Post-Doctoral Researchers

  • Profa. Dra. Nelci Adriana Cicuto Ferreira Rocha 2013-2014
  • Emily Marcinowski, PhD 2015-present

Stacey Dusing’s PubMed Publication List(click here)

Media and Video Abstract Links:

  • Physical therapy program offers help for infants with delayed skills → (click here)
  • Supporting Play Exploration and Early Development Intervention From NICU to Home: A Feasibility Study → (click here)
  • START_ Play Videos → (click here)
  • Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy Stephen Haley Research Award 2017 – UNC PT Newsletter  (click here)