Susan J. Harkema

Owsley Brown Frazier Chair in Clinical Rehabilitation Research

School of Medicine

Susan J. Harkema, Ph.D. professor, rehabilitation research director of the University of Louisville’s Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center and the director of research at Frazier Rehab Institute. She is also the director of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation’s Neurorecovery Network.

Her research is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Kentucky Spinal Cord and Head Injury Research Trust, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Foundation and the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. Her research also receives support from Frazier Rehab Institute.

Harkema’s research is focused on understanding neural mechanisms responsible for human locomotion and the level of plasticity -- or the ability to change and recover -- after neurologic injury. She and her colleagues have developed an intervention called locomotor training that re-teaches walking by providing sensory cues the neural circuitry of the spinal cord recognizes and promotes better muscle patterns for walking. The results of these studies contribute to the knowledge about the fundamental mechanisms that control human locomotion; this may provide strategies physical therapists can use for walking rehabilitation after neurologic injury occurs.

Harkema has served as a reviewer for 10 scientific journals and has published more than 50 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters. She is regularly invited to speak at national and international conferences.

A graduate of Michigan State University, Harkema earned her B.S. and Ph.D. in physiology and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in neurology at the University of California, Los Angeles. After joining the faculty at UCLA in 1995 as an assistant researcher, Harkema became an assistant professor in the department of neurology and the Brain Research Institute. She joined the University of Louisville’s Department of Neurological Surgery and Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center as well as the Frazier Rehab Institute in 2005.