Dr. Aimee J. Nelson

Professor, McMaster University

Photo of Dr. Nelson

Aimee Nelson received her PhD from the Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Toronto in 2003 in the field of human neurophysiology and neuroimaging with funding from NSERC. Aimee was a Postdoctoral Associate in the McGovern Center for Brain Research, MIT from 2003-2005, where she advanced the technique of high-field (9.4T) monkey imaging. In 2005, Aimee became a CIHR-funded Postdoctoral Fellow at the Toronto Western Research Institute where she continued to advance her neurophysiology and imaging techniques with studies in individuals with movement disorders. In 2008, Aimee joined the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo as Assistant Professor. Aimee came to the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University in 2012 as a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Sensorimotor neuroscience and is now completing her second term as a CRC. Aimee is a member of the Canadian Association of Neuroscience and the Society for Neuroscience. Aimee is also an Associate Member of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at McMaster University. Aimee’s expertise is in inducing and quantifying short- and long-term neural plasticity using neurophysiology and neuroimaging in humans.  Her research uses techniques of non-invasive brain stimulation, nerve stimulation, electromyography, electroencephalography, biofeedback, functional and anatomical brain imaging, and others. Aimee’s research is focused on understanding neural mechanisms that accompany alterations or improvements in motor control and developing new approaches to improve the quality of life in individuals living with neurological disease or injury. Her research interest in multiple sclerosis (MS) arose following the development of an EMG biofeedback system that was capable of being tailored to address the unique impairments of individuals living with MS.

Learn more about Dr. Nelson

What is the focus of your research? How did you become interested in MS research?  

My research is focused on whether dual-task integrated balance training can improve measures of balance in individuals living with MS.  Our research lab is located adjacent to McMaster’s Physical Activity Center of Excellence where individuals living with MS receive physical therapy and tailored exercise programs.  With the help of individuals living with MS, we developed an EMG biofeedback exercise designed to be accessible, intensive, and motivating.  We are now going to test whether this system is effective at improving balance outcomes in individuals living with MS. 
What inspires you to continue advancing research in this field? 

I want the research in my lab to be translational and directly applied to patient populations who may benefit from our scientific and technological developments.  My inspiration is the knowledge that our research can help people.  

How do you hope to change the lives of people living with MS through your research? 

The hope is to provide individuals living with MS with an alternative therapy that improves motor function, reduces falls and fatigue, and enhances their quality of life.
What do you enjoy most about your research? What are some of the challenges you face? 
One of the most enjoyable experiences of this research is having patient participants directly influence the design of the research.  In the process of acquiring data for our MS Canada grant application, we obtained feedback directly from individuals living with MS and interacting with the EMG biofeedback system.  Their suggestions and ideas were implemented at each stage of development and this was satisfying to the research team and the contributing participant.  
How important is the support from MS Canada in your research? 

Research support from MS Canada is vital to the success of this work.  With the funds, we can test individuals at two study sites, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Hamilton, Ontario, thereby improving accessibility. Further, we can provide post-doctoral training for the individual who was instrumental in the development and programming of the EMG biofeedback.