Jaynie Yang, PhD

Professor, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine - Physical Therapy


Professor, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine - Physical Therapy
(780) 492-2894
3-75 Corbett (E.A.) Hall
8205 - 114 St NW
T6G 2G4




  • Post-doctoral fellowship - Neuroscience - University of Alberta -1987 to 1989
  • PhD - Kinesiology - University of Waterloo - 1987
  • BSc - Physical Therapy - Queen’s University - 1978


  • Graduated from Queen’s University with a BSc in physical therapy and practiced as a physical therapist for two years, one year each at a rehabilitation hospital (Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Hospital), and an acute hospital (Toronto Western Hospital). 
  • Interest in the science behind physical therapy took Yang back to school for graduate work at the University of Waterloo, completing a PhD in kinesiology with Dr. David Winter, focusing on the biomechanics of walking. 
  • Completed post-doctoral fellowship in neuroscience with Dr. Richard Stein at the University of Alberta
  • Joined the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Alberta in January, 1990.
  • Other appointments at the University of Alberta include member of the Neuroscience & Mental Health Institute, member of the Women and Children's Health Research Institute, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.
  • Besides research and teaching, Yang has served as Graduate Coordinator for the thesis program, and Acting Chair of the Department of Physical Therapy on various occasions. 


Professional Interests

Dr. Yang is interested in how the nervous system controls movements in general, and walking in particular. Specific topics include: 

1) The neural control walking in humans, and how that control changes after injury to the central nervous system.

2) How can we optimize the retrain of walking in adults with spinal cord injury and young children with perinatal brain injury?

3) How do children learn walking related tasks, and how is that different from adults?

Current Research

Early, intensive motor training in children with perinatal brain injury

Children who suffer injury to the brain before or around the time of birth live with the deficits of this injury for a life time.  Yang is interested in whether early, intensive motor training might reduce these deficits. The work is based on animal studies that show there is a critical period early in life, in which activity/training is most effective.  A two-centre, randomized controlled trial is currently underway in Edmonton and Calgary to test this idea. 

Learning new walking patterns in young children

Infants can step on a split-belt treadmill with the 2 belts running at different speeds or different directions well before they develop independent walking. Like adults, the infants learn to walk more symmetrically on the split-belts over time. Yang is interested in when this learning first appears, and how it develops in early childhood.

Neural mechanisms underlying the retraining of walking in adults with spinal cord injury

Different types of training methods induce different types of neuroplasticity (i.e., changes in the nervous system).  Yang and her collaborators are currently studying how training with powered exoskeletons, such as the ReWalk and Ekso, changes the nervous system and improves function. 


Jaynie Yang, PhD, is a graduate student supervisor in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, the Biomedical Engineering Department, and the Neuroscience & Mental Health Institute.


Dr. Yang currently mentors two graduate students and is available to mentor additional students.

Scholarly Activities

Research - Enhancing walking after perinatal stroke

Perinatal (around birth) brain injury is devastating, because it permanantly affects a child for life. Many of these children are later diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP), the most common cause of physical disability in children, of which approximately 70% have walking problems that often require surgery and bracing. The abnormal walking predisposes them to premature arthritis and joint deformities, often requiring further surgery. Recent studies in animals have shown that weakened brain pathways can be strengthened through intensive training at an early, critical period when the developing nervous system is most plastic, thereby restoring lost motor function. Surprisingly, intensive motor training during a critical period of nervous system development (estimated to be < 2 yr of age) is not a part of current therapy, as most CP children in Alberta receive leg therapy only ~1-2x/mo, starting around 2 yr of age. Thus, our team of researchers (U of A and U of C) and clinicians (Glenrose Hospital, Alberta Children's Hospital & Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario) will examine if intensive leg therapy to improve walking function produces better short- and long-term effects when applied early (i.e., <2 years old) compared to usual care. We are studying children with specific forms of early brain injury to initiate movements with the impaired leg(s) for 1 hr/day, 4 day/wk for 3 mo. We randomly allocate children to either an immediate training group or a delayed training group. We will compare the change in walking and leg function over between the two groups. The delayed group will also train after the delay period for 3 mo. When the children turn 4 years old, we will compare literature information on the motor performance of similar children who have not undergone our intervention.  We hope by intervening during the presumed ‘critical period’, we can improve the child's short and long-term walking and reduce future complications.

Research - Motor learning on a split-belt treadmill in children, younger adults and older adults

Our recent work has shown that children learn motor tasks differently than adults.  Using a split-belt treadmill, which has 2 belts running at different speeds, we have shown that children take more time than adults to learn to coordinate their legs on such a treadmill.  Moreover, the maturation of their learning has a surprisingly long time course that extends to puberty. The slower learning, however, may also allow children to retain the learning longer.  Thus, we are studying how children, younger adults and older adults retain the learning experienced on a split-belt treadmill over 24 hours, 1 week and 2 weeks.


Safety and tolerability of transcranial neurostimulation in children: prospective evidence from 3.5 million stimulations

Author(s): 1. Zewdie E, Ciechanski P, Kuo H, Giuffre A, Kahl C, King R, Cole L, Grant H, Seeger T, Damji O, Jadavji Z, Keess J, Rajapakse T, Jodge J, Selby B, Gan L, Nelson S, MacMaster F, Yang JF, Barlow K, Gorassini M, Barlow K, Brunton K, Kirton A
Publication Date: 2020
Publication: Brain Stimulation
Volume: (in press)

The feasibility of functional electrical stimulation to improve upper extremity function in a two year-old child with perinatal stroke: a case report. Phys Occup Ther Pediatr, 2017; 38(1):97-112

Author(s): Musselman KE, Manns P, Dawe J, Delgado R, Yang JF
Publication Date: 2017
External Link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01942638.2016.1255291

Early intensive leg training to enhance walking in children with perinatal stroke: protocol for a randomized controlled trial

Author(s): 5. Hurd C, Livingtone D, Brunton K, Teves M, Zewdie E, Smith A, Gorassini MA, Kirton A, Watt J-M, Andersen J, Yager J, Yang JF
Publication Date: 2017
Publication: Phys Ther
Volume: 97
Issue: 8
Page Numbers: 818-825
External Link: https://www.ualberta.ca/rehabilitation/media-library/people/jaynie/a2522582e14b4bf5a23b945f83f92bdb/hurd-et-al-2017-phys-ther-combined-paper-and-supplementary-material.pdf

Supraspinal Control Predicts Locomotor Function and Forecasts Responsiveness to Training after Spinal Cord Injury. J Neurotrauma, 2017; 34(9):1813-1825

Author(s): Field-Fote E, Yang JF, Basso DM, Gorassini MA
Publication Date: 2017
External Link: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/neu.2016.4565

Training-specific neuroplasticity in spinal reflexes after incomplete spinal cord injury. Neural Plasticity, 2016:6718763

Author(s): Khan AS, Patrick SK, Roy FD, Gorassini MA, Yang JF
Publication Date: 2016
External Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5048024/

Facilitation of descending and spinal inhibitory networks from training of endurance and precision walking in participants with incomplete spinal cord injury. Prog Brain Res, 2015; 218:127-55

Author(s): Zewdie ET, Roy FD, Yang JF
Publication Date: 2015
External Link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0079612314000387?via%3Dihub

Validating accelerometry as a measure of arm movement for children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy

Author(s): Dawe J, Yang JF, Fehlings D, Likitlersuang J, Rumney P, Zariffa J, Musselman KE
Publication: Phys Ther
Volume: 99
Issue: 6
Page Numbers: 721-729

Perspectives of people with spinal cord injury learning to walk using a powered exoskeleton

Author(s): Manns T, Hurd C, Yang JF
Publication: J Neuroeng Rehabil
Volume: 16
Page Numbers: 94
External Link: https://www.cms.ualberta.ca/-/media/D6D868ECABC34C1EB431CB733D23653E

Retraining walking over ground in a powered exoskeleton after spinal cord injury: a prospective cohort study to examine functional gains and neuroplasticity

Author(s): 1. Khan AS, Livingstone DC, Hurd CL, Duchcherer J, Misiaszek JE, Gorassini MA, Manns PJ, Yang JF
Publication: J Neuroeng Rehabil
Volume: 16
Page Numbers: 145
External Link: https://www.ualberta.ca/rehabilitation/media-library/people/jaynie/fb7dc9363b9c4391b65846a27816d997/khan-et-al-2019-retraining-walking-over-ground-in-a-powered-exoskeleton.pdf