Dr. Sue Peters
School of Physical Therapy
Faculty of Health Sciences
Bachelors in Kinesiology
Western University (2005)
Master of Physical Therapy
Western University (2007)
PhD Rehabilitation Sciences, Neurophysiology
University of British Columbia (2018)
Postdoctoral Fellow (Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Michael Smith Foundation of Health Research)
Rehabilitation Research Lab, GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre
University of British Columbia (2019-2021)
Through Dr. Peters’ clinical work as a physiotherapist, she became passionate about improving mobility outcomes after stroke. She observed first-hand the challenges patients can experience when mobility is too difficult for community living. The problem being many patients do not fully maximize their mobility recovery, highlighting that we do not fully understand the neurophysiological mechanisms that underlie mobility, and the intersection of these mechanisms with other factors like cognition.
To address this knowledge gap, Dr. Peters was mentored by global leaders in neuroscience during her PhD: Dr. Jayne Garland and Dr. Lara Boyd at the University of British Columbia (UBC). She completed a PhD with a Canadian Institute for Health Research Doctoral Research award. While at UBC, Dr. Peters was a member of the Neural Control of Force Production and Movement lab and the Brain Behaviour Lab. Through working in these labs, she gained proficiency with electroencephalography (EEG), surface electromyography, peripheral nerve stimulation, and biomechanical analysis with motion capture technology, using all of these technologies during stepping. Together, this training enabled the investigation of the brain and muscle neurophysiology associated with healthy adults and post-stroke. Dr. Peters enhanced her brain imaging expertise to include magnetic resonance imaging for structural and functional data and transcranial magnetic stimulation, with resulting mechanistic and cross-sectional publications with these methods. Her PhD dissertation demonstrates that stroke survivors do not achieve full recovery of mobility in part due to cognitive impairments that interact with their ability to walk.
Prior to joining Western University, Sue was a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Fellow and Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Fellow in the Rehabilitation Research Program at GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, affiliated with the University of British Columbia. For postdoctoral training, Sue worked with her supervisor and mentor, Dr. Janice Eng, to expand her skillset with randomized clinical trial (RCT) methodology, knowledge translation, and technological expertise in functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). fNIRS probes regions of brain activation during mobility tasks with high ecological validity, complementing her PhD work in EEG. While her doctoral work involved mechanistic research with small sample sizes, uniting fNIRS with experience in RCTs in neurorehabilitation, has allowed Dr. Peters to develop clinical trial expertise and apply brain imaging knowledge to mobility interventions. Her current research involves implementing high-intensity gait training across multiple Canadian rehabilitation hospitals. The study protocol prescribes mobility rehabilitation training based on real-time heart rate and step count measurements, to improve outcomes for patients post-stroke.
At Western University, Dr. Peters’ program of research incorporates exploration of brain mechanisms like neuroplasticity using EEG and fNIRS, together with peripheral physiology measures like heart rate, to increase our understanding of the neural mechanisms that support naturalistic locomotion. Importantly, her work translates evidence-based mobility protocols that consider each individuals’ physiology into clinical practice after stroke.