PT Faculty Member Awarded $200K Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Grant

July 17, 2019

The Programs in Physical Therapy are pleased to announce that Jacqueline Montes, PT, EdD, along with Damiano Zanotto, PhD of Stevens Institute of Technology, have been awarded a grant by the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) to further develop minimally obtrusive foot worn technology and apply it to collect real-life gait data in patients’ living environments in individuals with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).   Dr. Montes and Dr. Zanotto are principal investigators on the project, entitled “Wearable Technology to Assess Gait Function in SMA and DMD.”

With the advent of disease-modifying therapies, new SMA and DMD phenotypes are emerging. There is an even greater need to evaluate responsiveness to these treatments and further explore disease burden to maximize benefit. Developing wearable technology as research tools will permit quantitative evaluation of children and adults beyond the clinical setting. This study will be the first to investigate the use of machine learning models to improve the accuracy of a wearable system for gait analysis.

Research-grade wearables, such as activity trackers and body-worn sensors, can provide a better evaluation of patients’ performance, however, these emerging technologies have thus far shown limited accuracy.  The goal of the research by Drs. Montes and Zanotto is to further develop instrumented insoles and the computational models to enable extended duration, accurate gait analysis in the patients’ own living environments, without the constraints of clinical settings. The study of patients’ walking patterns in their daily lives can help researchers and clinicians better understand how the pathomechanics of SMA and DMD gait are affected by newly available treatments.

While this project will address the need for objective and sensitive outcome measures in ambulatory patients with SMA and DMD, the unobtrusive foot-worn sensing technology and related learning-based computational methods to be developed in this study can be applied to other neuromuscular diseases and neurological conditions where the ambulatory function is compromised.

The $200,000 award is funded under the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s research grant mechanism.

For further information about the project, contact Dr. Jacqueline Montes at

Dr. Jacqueline Montes and research team in hallway with Programs in PT and OT sign
The research team, L-R: Huanghe Zhang, Ton Duong, Damiano Zanotto, David Uher, Jacqueline Montes, Kayla Cornett