Mission and History


Through research, technology, clinical care, and education, our purpose is to:

  1. Understand mechanisms underlying functional differences in movement,
  2. Develop new interventions to prevent and overcome the challenges of injury, illness, or development/age-related health conditions, and
  3. Offer the possibility of productive, independent lives to a wide range of clinical populations.


Generate new knowledge and technology, and promote its effective use in the rehabilitation process.


The UNTHSC Human Movement Performance Lab is dedicated to understanding how the human body moves and is affected by development, disease, and injury across the lifespan. Our team includes engineers, physical therapists, psychologists, physicians, and basic scientists working together to understand the cognitive and neuro-musculo-skeletal underpinnings of functional movement. We use video motion capture, virtual environments, mobile eye-tracking, custom instrumentation, and computational modeling to analyze abnormal motions due to disease processes and invent and evaluate rehabilitation treatments. With these goals we aim to improve the quality of life of persons with developmental disorders, disability, injury, or age-related functional changes.


The UNTHSC HMP lab opened in the spring of 2008 in part due to a generous gift from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation. Rita M. Patterson, Ph.D. was hired as the founding director and started the lab within the Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine Department in the school of medicine. Her background in biomedical engineering, orthopedics and upper extremity function were well suited to create a lab dedicated to understanding human functional performance. In 2009, Nicoleta Bugnariu, PT, Ph.D., brought her expertise in neuroscience and virtual reality to the lab. The Physical Therapy Department in the School of Health Professions made a significant investment in acquiring the current virtual reality system (CAREN; MotekForcelink) as a start-up package for Dr. Bugnariu.

From that point, the vision of a core, inter-departmental, multidisciplinary and inter-professional lab with shared governance of multiple principal investigators was implemented. Metin Yavuz, D.Eng, a biomedical engineer brings expertise in custom force plate instrumentation for evaluation of diabetic foot ulcers, joined the HMP lab in 2012. Haylie Miller, Ph.D., an experimental psychologist with interests in visual and motor development in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and related pediatric movement disorders, joined the lab as a postdoctoral fellow in 2013, and transitioned to a faculty position and PI role in 2015. Evan Papa, DPT, Ph.D, a Physical Therapist investigating how fatigue influences human performance in persons with Parkinson’s disease, joined the lab in 2014.

The HMP lab continues to grow, adding new staff, trainees, and collaborators to enrich the team’s expertise and the scope of work.