The MCLab is fortunate to have the services of highly qualified researchers with interests and backgrounds in human motor control. All researchers are engaged in research conducted in collaboration with each other, students and clinicians. They have a distinguished record of publishing in refereed journals such as: Experimental Neurology, Journal of Neurophysiology, Physical Therapy, Experimental Brain Research, Human Movement Science, Developmental Brain Research, The Journal of Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, Clinical Neurophysiology, Journal of EMG & Kinesiology and Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics. These researchers are also actively involved in teaching, serve in professional organizations, participate in continuing educational programs, provide consultation and assistance to agencies and health care facilities statewide, and they are invited speakers at various national and international meetings.

Charles Leonard

Chuck Leonard

Dr. Charles T Leonard is an Emeritus Professor and founder of the Motor Control Laboratory (1990). To honor Dr. Leonard’s leadership and outstanding scientific contributions to the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation the laboratory now receives his name (Dr. Charles T Leonard Motor Control Laboratory). 

Dr. Leonard received his Master’s degree from Duke University in Physical Therapy, and a Doctorate in Neuroscience from The Medical College of Pennsylvania.  He received a National Institutes of Health post-doctoral fellowship to study at The Nobel Institute of Neurophysiology in Stockholm, Sweden.  Prior to his academic career, Dr. Leonard founded and directed Tri-County Rehabilitation Centers, a series of out-patient physical rehabilitation centers located in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware that employed over 20 therapists and consulting physicians.  Dr. Leonard has been at The University of Montana since 1990.  His work uses clinical neurophysiological techniques such as electromyography and transcranial magnetic stimulation to examine neural mechanisms that control muscle and joint coordination.  He has developed several treatment interventions for neurological injury including a unique upper extremity robotic device with telerehabilitation capabilities that was built in collaboration with Montana State University engineering faculty and students.  He has patented a computerized electronic device that quantifies muscle properties and began a University spinoff medical device company, Neurogenic Technologies, Inc. in 2001.  His work has been funded by The MJ Murdock Charitable Trust Foundation, NIH, NSF and NASA

Alex Santos

Associate Professor, Physical Therapy, Director of Motor Control Laboratory


Post-doctoral scholar – The Arizona State University, Arizona, USA

Ph.D. in Kinesiology, 2008. The Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania, USA

M.Sc. Motricity Science – Human Motricity, 2001. Paulista State University of Sao Paulo, Rio Claro, Brazil (UNESP/RC)

Residence in trauma and orthopedic rehabilitation, 1999. University of Sao Paulo/Medicine School, Ribeirao Preto, Brazil (FMRP/USP)

B.Sc. Physiotherapy, 1998. State University of Londrina, Londrina, Brazil (UEL)

Courses Taught

PT 510 - Clinical Applied Human Anatomy

PT 573 Orthopedics

Research Interests

The focus of my research agenda is to investigate the effects of aging and neurodegenerative conditions (Parkinson’s, Peripheral Neuropathy) to the generation multi-muscle synergies and distribution of neural commands from the central nervous system (CNS) to skeletal muscles that are responsible for the control of vertical posture. This expertise is used clinically to assess the ability of an individual to coordinate muscles to a sufficient degree to prevent falls and fall-related injuries in specific populations (elderly, Parkinson’s patients, and Native Americans suffering of peripheral polyneuropathy, survivors of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and stroke (CVAs).

Selected Publications

  • Poston B, Danna-Dos Santos A, Jesunathadas M, Hamm TM, Santello M. Force-independent distribution of correlated neural inputs to hand muscles during three-digit grasping. J Neurophysiol. 2010 May 26. [Epub ahead of print].
  • Degani AM, Danna-Dos-Santos A, Robert T, Latash ML. Kinematic synergies during saccades involving whole-body rotation: a study based on the uncontrolled manifold hypothesis. Hum Mov Sci. 2010 Apr;29(2):243-58.
  • Klous M, Danna-dos-Santos A, Latash ML. Multi-muscle synergies in a dual postural task: evidence for the principle of superposition. Exp Brain Res. 2010 Apr;202(2):457-71.
  • Danna-Dos-Santos A, Shapkova EY, Shapkova AL, Degani AM, Latash ML. Postural control during upper body locomotor-like movements: similar synergies based on dissimilar muscle modes. Exp Brain Res. 2009 Mar;193(4):565-79.
  • Danna-dos-Santos A, Degani AM, Latash ML. Flexible muscle modes and synergies in challenging whole-body tasks. Exp Brain Res. 2008 Aug;189(2):171-87.
  • Danna-dos-Santos A, Degani AM, Zatsiorsky VM, Latash ML. Is voluntary control of natural postural sway possible ?. Journal of Motor Behavior, 2008 May;40(3):179-85.
  • Danna-dos-Santos A, Degani AM, Latash ML. Anticipatory control of head posture. Clinical Neurophysiology 18(8):1802-14, 2007.
  • Danna-Dos-Santos A, Slomka K, Zatsiorsky VM, Latash ML. Muscle modes and synergies during voluntary body sway.  Experimental Brain Research 179(4):533-50, 2007.
  • Degani AM, Danna-Dos-Santos A, Latash ML. Postural preparation to making a step: Is there a “motor programme” for postural preparation ? Journal of Applied Biomechanics (in press).
  • Degani AM, Danna-Dos-Santos A. The effect of water walking on the lower limb motion of older adults. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education 1(3):198-210, 2007.
  • Degani AM, Danna-Dos-Santos A. Spatio-temporal parameters and interlimb coordination in older adults when walking in shallow water. The Journal of Aquatic Physical Therapy 14(1): 2-7, 2006
  • Danna-dos-Santos A, Barela, J.A. Walking abnormalities in diabetic patients with peripheral neuropathy and transmetatarsal amputation. (In Portuguese). Brazilian Journal of Biomechanics 5:21-29, 2002.
  • Bonfim TR, Danna-dos-Santos A, Barela JA. Body sway and functional behavior of subtalar joint in patients with chronic ankle sprain. (In Portuguese). Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy 6:17-23, 2002.
  • Danna-dos-Santos A et al. The question of quality nutrition: a study based on the methodology of problematization. (In Portuguese). Semina 16:22-25, 1995.

MCLab Students

Adriana Degani

Adriana Degani

Adriana is a Research Assistant and a PhD candidate at the Motor Control Laboratory. She has a Physical Therapy degree from Sao Carlos Federal University/Brazil and a Master’s degree in Human Motricity from Paulista State University/Brazil. Her long-term goals are to a) identify the mechanisms behind multi-muscle control and postural sway variability, b) investigate the effects of the natural aging process to the generation of multiple postural muscle synergies to control balance, and c) translate findings from clinical trials into practical applications to enhance human health. Adriana’s current studies focus on determining the effect of an aging central nervous system on coordinating multiple postural muscles to control balance.

Maria Santos

Maria Santos

Maria Santos is a Research Assistant at the Motor Control Laboratory, Department of Physical Therapy, University of Montana. She is a Master's student in Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Montana, with research interests in physical therapy and neuroscience. Maria has a Physical Therapy degree from Brunel University in London, U.K., and completed over seven months of academic internships in hospitals and clinics in the London area. She is a certified Physical Therapist in Portugal and the United Kingdom. She did graduate coursework in childrens' motor development at the School of Human Motricity, University of Lisbon, Portugal.