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Michelle Karabin Receives NIH F31 Award to Develop Computational Model of Human Movement

Michelle Karabin

University of Pittsburgh graduate student Michelle Karabin has received Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for her work investigating human balance and movement through a new computational model. 

The project is part of Karabin’s doctoral work in bioengineering under the direction of Professor Mark Redfern, whose Human Movement and Balance Laboratory focuses on the biomechanics of human movement.

“I am thrilled for Michelle. Her research is exciting and will shed new light on how inner ear disorders can affect balance during walking,” said Redfern. “Her work will include advanced computational modeling and experiments measuring walking stability of patients in the laboratory.  This combination of modeling and working with patients is rare for PhD students. She will learn so much through this endeavor.  And, the knowledge gained will certainly inform how we improve treatment of balance disorders.”  

When patients have a vestibular disorder—a condition that impacts balance—walking can be difficult. The body uses four major stabilization strategies to walk: regulating foot placement, using the ankle to remain upright, adjusting the force at the ankle when walking, and modifying trunk posture. All four work together to retain stability while walking to retain stability while walking; a deficit in any strategy can increase imbalance and fall risk.

For this project, Karabin will use a computational model of human locomotion stability that can investigate the influence of each of the stabilization strategies as they work together. It will also account for the impact of vestibular inputs.

“The ultimate goal is to identify strategies that can be used in targeted rehabilitation plans to help people who are at a high risk for falls, like those with vestibular disorders,” said Karabin.