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Kelly P. Westlake, PhD, MSc, MSc, PT

Academic Title:

Associate Professor

Primary Appointment:

Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science

Secondary Appointment(s):

Diagnostic Radiology Nuclear Medicine, Neurology


AHRB, 205C

Phone (Primary):

(410) 706-5919

Education and Training

I received my B.Sc. degree in Physical Therapy from McGill University and M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Rehabilitation Sciences from Queen's University in Canada. My doctoral work was focused on the role of proprioception and cognition in postural control and the ability to train sensory integration to improve balance in older adults.  Further questions about the neural control of movement were probed during my postdoctoral work in individuals with stroke. I completed one year of postdoctoral research at the VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Center/Stanford University and three years in the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at the University of California, San Francisco. During my postdoctoral years, I developed expertise in functional neuroimaging as a means to understand the processes of brain plasticity to better inform rehabilitation interventions. I also participated in several intensive neuroimaging courses at the University of California, Berkeley, MGH Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, as well as software specific courses.  I have over eighteen years of clinical and research experience as a physical therapist treating stroke and other neurological disorders. In 2011, I joined the faculty at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.


**Currently accepting PhD applications.  Please send email for further details.**

The overall focus of my lab is to develop targeted and novel methods of rehabilitation that will optimize and individualize motor learning. We have four ongoing primary research areas.  First, we are investigating the role of cognitive and emotional brain networks in relation to the protective balance responses in older adults. Using fMRI, motion analysis, and pyschophysiological approaces, our data provided the first evidence of a direct relationship between altered neural cognitive networks and impaired balance, suggesting an impaired ability to shift attention towards important sensory information related to balance recovery.  Results will enable the development of cognitive based fall prevention strategies and interventions, particularly as they relate to improving the effectiveness of protective balance respoonses.  Second, we are investigating factors that contribute to motor learning consolidation.  We are currently evaluating methods by which this process may be enhanced through targeted memory reactivation during sleep in individuals with stroke. Collaborators on this project include faculty at the University of Maryland Sleep Center and the University of Maryland Rehabilitation and Orthopedic Institute (UMROI).  Third, we are investigating the predictive value and differential response of functional brain networks to two upper extremity stroke interventions – bilateral versus unilateral training. This research is being conducted with collaborators in Computer Science at University of Maryland, Baltimore County and in Kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University. Overall goals are to better characterize the stroke population, predict recovery potential, and develop targeted and novel methods of rehabilitation that will optimize and individualize motor learning.  Finally, we are developing and testing a new bimanual assessment measure (BAM) for use after stroke. There is a distinct void in the field of rehabilitation by which bimanual functions may be assessed, while accounting for hand dominance, and tracked over time. Our overall aim is to develop a low cost, easy to use comprehensive identification of bimanual functional abilities, beyond what is assessed by unimanual outcomes, leading to directed rehabilitation efforts in individuals with stroke. 

Research/Clinical Keywords

Rehabilitation, Stroke, Balance, Falls, Motor Learning, Upper Extremity, Cognition, Neuroimaging

Highlighted Publications

*For a complete list of publications, see My Bibliography

Westlake KP, Patten C. Pilot study of robot versus manual-assisted treadmill training for locomotor recovery post-stroke. J NeuroEng and Rehabil 2009; 6(1):18.

Westlake KP, Nagarajan SS. Functional connectivity in relation to motor performance and recovery after stroke. Front Sys Neurosci 2011;5(8).

Westlake KP, Hinkley L, Bucci M, Guggisberg A, Byl N, Findlay A, Henry R, Nagarajan SS. Resting state alpha band functional connectivity and recovery of upper extremity function after stroke, Exp Neurol 2012. 237(1):160-9.

Westlake KP, Byl NN. Neuroplasticity and hand rehabilitation after neurological insult. Journal of Hand Therapy 2013;26(2):87-92.

Laney J, Adali T, McCombe Waller S, Westlake KP. Quantifying Motor Recovery After Stroke using Independent Vector Analysis and Graph-Theoretical Analysis. Neuroimage Clinical 2015;8:298-304.

Westlake KP, Johnson BP, Creath RA, Neff RM, Rogers MW. Influence of non-spatial working memory demands on reach-grasp responses to loss of balance: Effects of age and fall risk. Gait and Posture 2016;45:51-55.

Woytowicz EJ, Whitall J, Westlake KP. Age-related changes in bilateral upper extremity coordination. Curr Ger Rep 2016;5(3): 191-9.

Johnson B, Scharf S, Westlake KP. Targeted memory reactivation during sleep, but not wake, enhances sensorimotor skill performance: A pilot study. J Motor Behav 2018; 50(2): 202-9.

Johnson B, Westlake KP. The link between Parkinson’s disease and REM sleep behavior disorder with dream enactment: Possible implications for early rehabilitation. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 2018; 99(2): 411-5.

Woytowicz EJ, Sours C, Gullapalli R, Rosenberg J, Westlake KP. Modulation of working memory load distinguishes individuals with and without balance impairments following mild traumatic brain injury. Brain Injury 2018; 32(2): 191-9.

Johnson B, Scharf S, Verceles AC, Westlake KP. Use of targeted memory reactivation during a daytime nap enhances skill performance in healthy young adults J Sleep Res 2019; 28(5):

Johnson B, Shipper A, Westlake KP. Systematic review investigating the effects of non-pharmacological interventions during sleep to enhance physical rehabilitation outcomes in people with neurological diagnoses. Neurorehabil Neural Repair 2019; 33(5):345-354.

Woytowicz EJ, Westlake KP, Sainburg RL, Whitall J.  Competition for limited neural resources in older adults leads to greater asymmetry of bilateral movements than in young adults. J Neurophys 2020;123(4):1295-1304.

Johnson B, Scharf S, Verceles AC, Westlake KP. Sensorimotor performance is improved by targeted memory reactivation during a daytime nap in healthy older adults. Neuroscience Letters 2020 Jul 13;731:134973


Akinlosotu R, Alissa N, Wittenburg G, Westlake KP. Age-related changes in upper limb and trunk responses to first and repeated exposure to laterally induced imbalances. Brain Sci 2020;10(9)


Johnson B, Westlake KP. Chronic post-stroke deficits in gross and fine motor control of the ipsilesional upper extremity. Am J Phys Med Rehab 2021;15:667574

Jeon W, Whitall J, Griffen L, Westlake KP. Trunk kinematics and lower extremity muscle activation effects on postural stability during stand-to-sit in younger and older adults. Gait Posture 2021;86:292-298.

Johnson B, Cohen L, Westlake KP. The intersection of offline learning and occupational therapy. Front Hum Neurosci 2021 2021;15:667574.

Johnson B, Whitall J, McCombe Waller S, Westlake KP. Development and psychometric testing of the Bimanual Assessment Measure (BAM) for individuals with chronic stroke. AJOT (accepted)

Johnson B, Scharf S, Verceles AC, Westlake KP. Enhancing motor learning in people with stroke via memory reactivation during sleep. Rehabil Psych (accepted)

Akinlosotu RA, Alissa N, Waldstein S, Westlake KP. Influence of mental stress on the reach to grasp reactive balance response in older adults. Exp Gerontol 2021;153:111495


Additional Publication Citations


Research Interests

The overall focus of my lab is to develop targeted and novel methods of rehabilitation that will optimize and individualize motor learning. We have three ongoing research areas. First, we are investigating the role of anxiety and cognition on the protective responses to balance perturbations in older adults. Second, we are investigating factors that contribute to motor learning consolidation. Finally, we are developing and testing a new bimanual assessment measure (BAM) for use after stroke.

Clinical Specialty Details

Balance, Falls, Stroke, Neurorehabilitation, motor learning

Awards and Affiliations

  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research Doctoral Fellowship, 2002-2007
  • Governor General of Canada Academic Gold Medal of Excellence Nominee, 2007
  • Physiotherapy Foundation of Canada Constance Beattie Award, 2007
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Clinical Research Initiative Fellowship, 2007-2010
  • NIA Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center Award for best scientific poster, 2015
  • Associate Editor, Frontiers for Young Minds, 2016-present

Grants and Contracts

1. NIA R03 AG060290-01 

K. Westlake PI

9/1/2018-5/31/20 (NCE)

Title: Influence of Attentional Control on Protective Arm Responses to Balance


2. NIDILRR Field Initiated Project 90IFRE0011

K. Westlake PI

09/30/17-09/29/22 (NCE)       

Title: Efficacy of an interactive web-based home therapy program in the recovery of arm and hand following stroke: A randomized trial


3. Maryland Industrial Partnership Grant

K. Westlake PI


Title: Instrumented Bilateral Arm Trainer with Actuation


4. UMB Accelerated Translational Incubator Pilot (ATIP) Program # 1UL1TR003098

K. Westlake PI


Title: Exploring responses to reactive balance perturbations in older adults



In the News


Westlake K and Menaker J. “Falls: A leading cause of death and disability.”, Maryland Public Television Direct Connection Your Health Series, Oct. 23, 2017.


Westlake K and Rogers M. “Falls and the Elderly: How to stay balanced” National Public Radio (NPR) On the Record, Jan.30, 2018 (re-aired Aug. 29, 2018).

Professional Activity

2015-2019       Research committee member, APTA Academy of Neurologic Rehabilitation

2017-present   Co-Chair, Evidence-Based Documents Advisory Committee, APTA Academy of Neurologic Rehabilitation

2019-present   Chair, Balance and Falls in Neurological Conditions Clinical Practice Guidelines Development Group, APTA Academy of Neurologic Rehabilitation