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Veronica SIlva, PhD, joins the U of M from the University of Massachusetts Amherst's Department of Kinesiology // Garrick Kozier

New prof poised to prevent falls, promote quality of life

Meet Dr Veronica Silva, FKRM's newest faculty member

October 3, 2018 — 

Your earliest experiences as a toddler might be centred on clutching a grown-up’s hand, clumsily grasping it to avoid tumbling as your legs engaged in Bambi-on-ice-like movements, tussling the hallways and corners of your home.

Falling down is an act no one is immune to. Interestingly enough, we actually don’t really know why we fall.

Dr Veronica Silva, one of the FKRM’s newest faculty members, is on the case. In her research, she accesses mobility in challenging conditions with the goal of understanding how the nervous system controls and adapts our movements to successfully maintain balance while walking, or regain balance following a moment of instability (such as when we slip or trip). 

Learn more about Silva in our Q&A below:

What’s the focus of your research?

The focus of my research is to understand the visual perception mechanisms involved in the control of locomotion and mobility.

Mobility relates to the ability to adapt locomotion to different environments (eg., irregular terrains, stairs, indoors, outdoors), under varying circumstances (eg., dual-tasking, carrying objects), and while dealing with changes through lifespan (ie., aging, illness). In my research, I access mobility in challenging conditions with the goal of understanding how the nervous system controls and adapts our movements to successfully maintain balance while walking, or regain balance following a moment of instability (such as when we slip or trip).

While mobility is influenced by a number of factors, the main focus of my research involves understanding the role of visual perception during locomotion as a crucial component for safe mobility. Humans rely heavily on vision to learn about their surroundings and use visual information to modulate their movements including gait patterns. Walking in a context where visual information is degraded or conflicting increases the chances for falls. For example, texting while walking is very common these days. Although we are able to walk more or less normally while having our vision and attentional resources on our phones, such situations increase the risk for falls or balance instability.

What impact do you want your research to make?

The ultimate goal of my research is to help people to maintain safe and successful mobility across lifespan. Falls are a major public health problem, and their negative consequences such as disability, loss of autonomy, and economic burden are well recognized in the aging population. My research program contributes to the fundamental understanding of the sensory-motor function underlying the control of locomotion and how it alters with aging and disease. The knowledge generated with my research can support the development of intervention programs to improve independent mobility, prevent falls and promote quality of life.

What do you like most about Winnipeg so far?

I have been in Winnipeg for only three months, so I still have lots to explore around the city. So far, really like that Winnipeg offers many options for parks, restaurants, shopping and services within a short driving distance. I also like the many family friendly events and activities available year around.

Most importantly, I have witnessed the “friendly Manitoba” spirit in Winnipeg, which is helping me and my family to settle in.

If you weren’t a faculty member at a university, what would you be doing for your career?

I think I would still work in some form of teaching and research. Perhaps, I would be a librarian, an instructional designer or biomedical engineer. 

What’s your favourite thing to do?

Spending quality time with family and friends, specially outdoors. In my “me” time, I enjoy all sorts of arts and crafts, and specially quilting.

What’s your favorite food?

Japanese food is top one but I really enjoy experimenting different cuisines.

What book/show/media are you currently watching or into?

I am reading Advice for New Faculty Members by Robert Boice, and Nosso Lar: life in the spirit world by Chico Xavier & Andre Luiz.

 

 

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