As a practicing pediatric physical therapist specialized in infants at high-risk of cerebral palsy (CP), Barbara Sargent, PT, PhD, MS, was growing frustrated with the lack of research evidence on early identification of CP and effective interventional strategies.
“We know that infants have tremendous potential for neural plasticity, yet we do not yet know how to best identify infants that need rehabilitation services early,” said Sargent. “Frustrating still is that once they are identified, we do not yet know the most effective early intervention strategies to optimize their motor circuitry and functional outcomes.”
Consequently, Sargent changed her career trajectory after 18 years of clinical practice to pursue physical therapy research. She has been researching this topic now for the past 14 years.
In 2018, the Foundation for Physical Therapy Research (FPTR) awarded Sargent the $40,000 Pediatric Research Grant. This grant was supported by the Pediatric Physical Therapy Fund.
Her project titled, “Quantifying Selective Motor Control in Infants at High Risk for Cerebral Palsy,” aimed to identify cerebral palsy (CP) in early infancy and develop effective interventions to improve walking outcomes of people with CP.
“I am hoping my research will help detect cerebral palsy in very early infancy and inform the types of intervention that the infants should be participating in to optimize their motor circuitry and walking outcomes,” said Sargent.
Sargent is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Physical Therapy at the University of Southern California and Director of Development of the Infant Motor Performance Laboratory.