The Motor Control Lab brings together experts in the field of motor control science. Directed by Dr. James Thomas, P.T, Ph.D., our lab includes physical therapists, engineers, neuroscientists, and more!

A headshot of Dr. James Thomas [View Image]

Thomas, Ph.D.


Dr. Thomas, director of the Motor Control Lab at VCU, has been a licensed physical therapist for 32 years with over 15 years of clinical experience specializing in orthopedics and lower back pain. Over the past 17 years, he has melded his clinical experiences and knowledge with his training in neuroscience to advance knowledge on trunk control and low back pain. Dr. Thomas takes a multi-track approach understanding trunk control.

This approach includes:
1) The development of novel virtual reality assessment and treatment tools for a variety of orthopedic and neurologic impairments
2) Developing techniques to elucidate neural control of trunk movement
3) Using randomized clinical trials to assess the effectiveness of classic and novel treatments for low back pain.

University of Illinois at Chicago - 2000, Ph.D. Kinesiology
University of Illinois at Chicago - 1997, M.S. Kinesiology
Saint Louis University - 1985, B.S. Physical Therapy

Courses Taught: Multivariate Statistics, Differential Diagnosis, Bioinstrumentation, Physical Agents, Functional Anatomy, Advance Case Study, Management of Ageing
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Susanne van der Veen, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. van der Veen is a licensed physical therapist with clinical experience specializing in mobility in the elderly population with neurological and orthopedic disabilities. During her master’s degree and doctorate studies, the primary research focus has been on motor control and factors that affect foot placement accuracy. This determined how important balance is for safe gait and gait adaptability.

Since January 2018 she has been working with Dr. Thomas on various VR projects and is responsible for running the VIGOR study (Phase II RCT examining the effectiveness of virtual dodgeball to reduce pain in and disability in chronic low back pain). Further, she has worked with our lead programmer to develop a series VR tools for balance assessment and treatment.

Salford University, Salford, United Kingdom - 2018, Ph.D. Health Science
Vrije Universiteit van Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands - 2014, M.S. Human Movement Science
Hoge school van Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands - 2010, B.S. Physical Therapy

ResearchGate Profile
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Alexander Stamenkovic, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Having a keen interest in the link between human structure and function, Dr. Stamenkovic’s research focuses on the underlying neuromuscular coordination that drives human movement. Under an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship, his doctoral studies (University of Wollongong, Australia) investigated the role that body posture plays in the control of balance and movement preparation during goal-directed reaching. During this time, he was awarded the University of Wollongong Vice Chancellor’s Sessional Award for Outstanding Contribution to Teaching and Learning (OCTAL) and inducted as a Fellow of the Wollongong Academy for Tertiary Teaching & Learning Experience (WATTLE).

Currently, he assists Dr. Thomas in the NIH-funded Phase II Clinical Trial, ‘Project VIGOR’ and is exploring how immersive technologies influence sensorimotor control. He is an active member of the International Society of Posture & Gait Research (ISPGR), holding roles on both the Communications and Strategic Planning committees.

University of Wollongong, Australia – 2018, Ph.D. Motor Control
University of Wollongong, Australia – 2011, B.S. (Hons. Class I) Exercise Science

ResearchGate Profile
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Alex Peebles

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Peebles is passionate about injury prevention, and his research focuses on identifying, understanding, and improving movement deficits associated with injury risk/progression. He graduated with a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Virginia Tech in 2020, where his dissertation focused on developing methods to assess human movement which are reliable and feasible to use in clinical settings. He later used these methods to identify movement deficits present during jumping and landing in patients following ACL reconstruction surgery during routine outpatient physical therapy sessions. Alex has been a contributing member of the American Society of Biomechanics since 2015, and recently joined the American College of Sports Medicine in 2018.

Alex joined the Motor Control Lab in 2020, and has been helping the team with the VIGOR project, a phase II clinical trial examining the effectiveness of a virtual reality-based intervention for improving movement and reducing pain and disability in patients with chronic low back pain.

Virginia Tech – 2020, Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering
University of Kansas – 2017, M.S. Bioengineering
Roger Williams University, Rhode Island - 2015, B.S. Mechanical Engineering

Google Scholar Profile
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Tiffany Amos

Clinical Research Coordinator

Tiffany is a highly competent Research Coordinator with a background in Traumatic Brain Injury research, in the Veteran population. She is experienced in preforming and scoring qEEG recordings, preforming Computerized Posturography tests and administering and scoring neuropsychological tests. Tiffany is currently a Research Coordinator with CERSE and helps with grant applications, regulatory submissions, and study coordination.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University - 2003, B.S. Psychology
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Jason Arhin

Game Programmer

Jason is a software developer specializing in virtual reality and standalone game development in Unity Engine and C#. He also has experience building computer applications using Java.

Since joining the MCL team in February 2021, he has worked to maintain working order of the VIGOR study VR game suite. He continues to work with the MCL team to add new features to both the suite and this website, and continue to support existing features as well. He will also work with the postdoctoral fellows to develops new programs to aid in clinical research.

George Mason University - 2018, B.F.A. Computer Game Design

LinkedIn Profile

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Forough Abtahi

Graduate Student

Forough Abtahi practiced as an outpatient’s physical therapist for almost 5 years in Iran. She is a first-year PhD student in rehabilitation and movement science-neuromusculoskeletal track and recently joined the MCL. Forough obtained her B.S. in physical therapy at Shiraz University of Medical Science, Shiraz, Iran. During her undergraduate studies, she investigated the effect of manual therapy on people with sacroiliac joint dysfunctions and its relation to postural control. She graduated from Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran with M.S. in Physical Therapy on 2018. Her master thesis was focused on how manual therapy applied to the wrist influences proprioception. Her research interests include motor control, proprioception, balance & postural control.

Forough is currently involved in data collection at VIGOR project, a Phase II clinical trial examining the effectiveness of a virtual reality-based intervention for improving movement and reducing pain and disability in patients with chronic low back pain.

Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran - 2018, M.S. Physical Therapy
Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran - 2013, B.S. Physical Therapy
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Tasha Nasevich

Graduate Student

Tasha is finishing up her 2nd year as a student in VCU's Doctor of Physical Therapy program and began working in the Motor Control Lab in the Fall of 2020. She assists with data collection for the VIGOR project, a phase II clinical trial that examines the impact of virtual reality-based intervention on pain perception and movement capabilities in individuals with chronic low back pain.

While still exploring which patient populations she would like to work with upon completion of her program, she has an interest in the chronic pain population and has enjoyed seeing the application of an emerging treatment technology for this condition.
In addition to working in the MCL, Tasha volunteers with VCU's pro bono physical therapy clinic (the CARES clinic) which helps to provide services to Richmond's lower income and underserved communities.

Virginia Commonwealth University - 2022, DPT
University of Virginia - 2013, B.A. Economics

Clinical Research and Applied
Technologies Experience (CREATE)

Aligning with VCU Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences Internship requirements (HPEX 395/495), the Undergraduate: Clinical REsearch and Applied Technologies Experience (U:CREATE) provides students with an opportunity to explore the day-to-day workings of a clinical research facility. Students will be exposed to work at all stages of the translational research cycle (from basic to clinical trials research), and will learn to utilize specialty data collection techniques (e.g., kinematics, kinetics, virtual reality, cortical activity, neuromuscular stimulation) to analyze the relationship between neural control and movement in a range of orthopedic and neurological populations. At the heart of the experience is a desire to promote behaviors that will allow critical thinking to flourish, in a practical ‘hands-on’ learning environment, as students continue towards careers in the medical, engineering, or allied health professions. Additional opportunities exist for individuals interested in gaining experience in Unity, virtual reality and game development. For more information, contact us at:

  • Current:
      Spring 2021 Lab Photo [View Image]
    • Spring 2021
      • Andrew Aikens
      • Dharanisri Atluri
      • Cole Bibb
      • Hayley Darling

  • Past:
      Fall 2020 Lab Photo [View Image]
    • Fall 2020
      • Daniela Cruz
      • Richard Nguyen
      • Kimberly Ito

      Spring 2020 Lab Photo [View Image]
    • Spring 2020
      • Imani Yeboah
      • Maria Hamilton
      • Victoria Passmore
      • Marisa Strosnider

      Fall 2019 Lab Photo [View Image]
    • Fall 2019
      • William O'Hora


Peter Pidcoe, Ph.D. - Virginia Commonwealth University

Christopher France, Ph.D. - Ohio University

Stephen Coombes, Ph.D. - University of Florida

Brian C. Clark, Ph.D. - Ohio University

Daniel Corcos, Ph.D. - University of Illinois-Chicago

Steve Lavender, Ph.D. - Ohio State University

Robert J. Ploutz-Snyder, Ph.D. - PStat, University of Michigan

Guang Yue, Ph.D. - Kessler Foundation

Past Members

Martine Bordeleau, Ph.D. Neurosciences

Kamali Charles, DPT, Physical Therapy - Virginia Commonwealth University

Annie Johnson, DPT, Physical Therapy - Virginia Commonwealth University

Matt Underation, B.S., Computer Science - Ohio State University

Kristen Valasek, DPT Student, Physical Therapy - High Point University

Megan Charity, Ph.D. Student - New York University

Derrick Miller, M.D. Student - Virginia Commonwealth University

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