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Nicholas Stergiou, PhD, Research on Human Movement Variability


Spotlight on Research at COPH – Dr. Stergiou has made significant contributions to public health through his research that targets protecting and improving the health of pathological populations. He has developed a theoretical framework that is aimed at improving the health of communities through research of injury prevention and disease. Dr. Stergiou’s research focus is human movement variability, i.e., the normal variations that occur across multiple repetitions of a task, and he has proposed a framework that conceptualizes the effect of disease, injury, and/or aging on healthy movement. This theoretical framework proposes that healthy human movement lies on a continuum between too much variability and complete repeatability, a dynamic equilibrium that is not a static state. Dr. Stergiou and his collaborators have used this theory to formulate novel therapies aimed at restoring healthy movement and promoting optimal health and well-being.

Dr. Stergiou has investigated the development of sitting posture in infants and has developed techniques for early detection of delayed development in infants with cerebral palsy. Early detection of developmental delay is crucial for the overall prognosis of sitting and upright posture in these children. Dr. Stergiou and his collaborators have extended their work by developing novel physical therapies. By applying this theoretical approach, the therapist assumes that the general rule is to enhance patients’ variability of movement at a certain dynamic level in order to improve functional mobility. This approach has challenged traditional dogma and has lead to several federally funded grants.

Dr. Stergiou has also worked closely with vascular surgeons to investigate the mechanisms of peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Patients with PAD suffer from pain during activity because atherosclerosis has restricted blood flow from the legs, limiting their ability to perform activities of daily living, such as cleaning, shopping, and getting to and from work. PAD is present in roughly 30% of US adults 65 years of age and older, representing a large public health concern. Dr. Stergiou’s research team has documented the movement abnormalities present in these patients as well as the inability of current pharmacological and surgical treatments to restore walking patterns.

Dr. Stergiou has also worked with orthopedic surgeons in Greece, investigating movement variability in patients with knee injury. This work has led to the development of novel grafting techniques during surgery to restore function in the affected knee. Dr. Stergiou’s research with multiple sclerosis, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and falls in the elderly has produced similar novel treatment techniques.

Nicholas Stergiou, PhD, is a professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Environmental, Agricultural, and Occupational Health.

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