Carrie L. Peterson, Ph.D. profile photo

Carrie L. Peterson, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering | B.S., University of Michigan | MSE and Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin | Postdoctoral Training, Northwestern University

737 N 5th Street Biotech Eight, Room 440, Richmond, VA, UNITED STATES

(804) 827-5270

Dr. Peterson's expertise is in neuromusculoskeletal biomechanics of human movement and rehabilitation design.









Areas of Expertise

Rehabilitation EngineeringNeuroplasticityMusculoskeletal Modeling and Simulation of Human MovementMusculoskeletal BiomechanicsNeuromodulation


Outstanding Researcher Award, National Center for Simulation in Rehabilitation Research | professional


Sarah Baskin Award for Excellence in Research, 1st Place Postdoctoral Fellow Category | professional


Craig H. Neilsen Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship | professional

2014 - 2016

NIH Loan Repayment Program Award, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago | professional

2012 – 2016

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, UT Austin | professional

2007 – 2010

Thrust 2000 Fellowship, UT Austin | professional

2005 – 2006

Class of 1931 Engineering Scholar, University of Michigan | professional

2001 – 2004


Northwestern University and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

Postdoctoral, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

The University of Texas at Austin

Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering

The University of Texas at Austin

M.S.E., Mechanical Engineering

University of Michigan

B.S.E., Mechanical Engineering


  • American Society of Biomechanics
  • IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology
  • Biomedical Engineering Society

Research Focus

Design interventions that promote neuroplasticity to improve function after neurologic injury

Our goal is to increase our understanding of factors that contribute to functional neuroplasticity, and to use that knowledge to direct rehabilitation. Our ultimate goal is to optimize neuromuscular function in individuals with sensorimotor deficits to improve their quality of life and independence, and we believe neuromodulation as an adjunct to physical rehabilitation has much promise in this regard.

Musculoskeletal modeling and simulation to estimate biomechanical forces

There are many quantities we cannot measure with experimental techniques in human subjects during dynamic tasks of daily living. Musculoskeletal modeling and simulation analyses of human movement, however, can be used to estimate important quantities such as dynamic muscle and tendon forces, joint contact forces, and muscle mechanical work. These quantities provide valuable insight with regard to muscle function and the effect of neurologic impairments on task performance. Our research in modeling and simulation spans different patient populations (e.g., post-stroke and spinal cord injured patients) and different human movements, such as walking and wheelchair mobility activities.

Research Grants

Development of clinical measures to guide neuromodulation therapies

CCTR Endowment Fund of Virginia Commonwealth University


The purpose of this research is to develop innovative methodology to reliably assess changes in nerve supply to muscle and indicate the location of the nervous system that is performing suboptimally. Neuromodulation techniques can then be targeted to cortical or subcortical locations of the nervous system that our new measures indicate.

Intermittent Theta Burst Stimulation to Promote Motor Re-education After Upper Limb Reconstruction in Tetraplegia

National Institutes of Health National Center of Neuromodulation for Rehabilitation


Our goal is to determine whether purposefully increasing corticomotor excitability during motor re-learning as an adjuvant to physical rehabilitation after tendon or nerve transfer increases post-transfer strength and functional outcomes. Intermittent theta burst stimulation (iTBS) is a non-invasive brain stimulation technique that can increase corticomotor excitability. The purpose of this work is to determine the effect of iTBS on corticomotor excitability of the biceps in individuals with tetraplegia (with and without upper limb reconstruction) and nonimpaired individuals.


EGRB 203 Statics and Mechanics of Materials

The objective of this course is to understand the theory and application of engineering mechanics applied to the design and analysis of rigid and deformable structures.

EGRB 423 Rehabilitation Engineering and Prostheses

This course explores the principles and practices regarding the measurement and analysis of human movement towards the development of rehabilitation therapies, prostheses, and other assistive devices.

Selected Articles

Effect of biceps-to-triceps transfer on rotator cuff stress during upper limb weight-bearing lift in tetraplegia: A modeling and simulation analysis. | Journal of Biomechanics


Rotator cuff stress during upper limb weight-bearing lifts presumably contribute to rotator cuff disease, which is the most common cause of shoulder pain in individuals with tetraplegia. Elbow extension strength appears to be a key determinant of rotator cuff stress during upper limb weight-bearing lifts since individuals with paraplegia who generate greater elbow extensor moments experience lower rotator cuff stress relative to individuals with tetraplegia. Biceps-to-triceps transfer surgery can increase elbow extension strength in individuals with tetraplegia. The purpose of this study was to determine whether active elbow extension via biceps transfer decreases rotator cuff stress during weight-bearing lifts in individuals with tetraplegia. A forward dynamics computational framework was used to estimate muscle stress during the lift. We found that limited elbow extension strength in individuals with tetraplegia, regardless of whether elbow strength is enabled via biceps transfer or is residual after spinal cord injury, results in muscle stresses exceeding 85% of the peak isometric muscle stress in the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor. The rotator cuff stresses we estimated suggest that performance of weight-bearing activities should be minimized or assisted in order to reduce the risk for shoulder pain. Our results also indicate that biceps transfer is unlikely to decrease rotator cuff stress during weight-bearing lifts in individuals with tetraplegia.

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Voluntary activation of biceps-to-triceps and deltoid-to-triceps transfers in quadriplegia | PLOS One


The biceps or the posterior deltoid can be transferred to improve elbow extension function for many individuals with C5 or C6 quadriplegia. We compared voluntary activation during maximum isometric elbow extension following biceps transfer and deltoid transfer in three functional postures. Overall, individuals with a biceps transfer better activated their transferred muscle than those with a deltoid transfer. This difference in neural control augmented the greater force-generating capacity of the biceps leading to increased elbow extension strength after biceps transfer (average 9.37 N-m across postures) relative to deltoid transfer (average 2.76 N-m across postures) in our study cohort.

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Posture-dependent corticomotor excitability differs between the transferred biceps in individuals with tetraplegia and the biceps of nonimpaired individuals | Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair


Following biceps transfer to enable elbow extension in individuals with tetraplegia, motor re-education may be facilitated by greater corticomotor excitability. Arm posture modulates corticomotor excitability of the nonimpaired biceps. If arm posture also modulates excitability of the transferred biceps, posture may aid in motor re-education. Our objective was to determine whether multi-joint arm posture affects corticomotor excitability of the transferred biceps similar to the nonimpaired biceps. We assessed corticomotor excitability using transcranial magnetic stimulation. Arm posture modulated corticomotor excitability of the transferred biceps differently than the nonimpaired biceps. Elbow extension strength was positively related and muscle length was unrelated, respectively, to motor-evoked potential amplitude across the arms with biceps transfer. Corticomotor excitability of the transferred biceps is modulated by arm posture and may contribute to strength outcomes after tendon transfer.

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Withdrawal reflexes in the upper limb adapt to arm posture and stimulus location. | Muscle Nerve


We examined the adaptability of withdrawal reflexes in response to nociceptive stimuli applied in different arm postures and to different digits. Reflexes were elicited at rest, and kinetic and electromyographic responses were recorded under isometric conditions, thereby allowing motorneuron pool excitability to be controlled. The withdrawal reflex in the human upper limb adapts in a functionally relevant manner when elicited at rest.

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Muscle work is increased in pre-swing during hemiparetic walking. | Clinical Biomechanics


Three-dimensional forward dynamics simulations of two representative hemiparetic subjects walking with different self-selected speeds (i.e., limited community=0.45 m/s and community walkers=0.9 m/s) and a speed and age-matched control subject were generated to quantify musculotendon (fiber and in-series tendon) work during paretic pre-swing. Total paretic and non-paretic fiber work were increased in both the limited community and community hemiparetic walkers compared to the control. Increased fiber work in the limited community walker was primarily related to decreased fiber and tendon work by the paretic plantar flexors requiring compensatory work by other muscles. Increased fiber work in the community walker was primarily related to increased work by the hip abductors and adductors. These results may partly explain the increased metabolic cost of hemiparetic walkers compared to nondisabled walkers at matched speeds.

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Pre-swing deficits in forward propulsion, swing initiation and power generation by individual muscles during hemiparetic walking. | Journal of Biomechanics


Using simulation analyses, we identified important deficits that limit walking ability in individuals post-stroke. Decreased paretic soleus and gastrocnemius contributions to forward propulsion and power generation were the primary impairments in a representative limited community walker compared to the control subject. In a representative community walker, paretic muscles had the net effect to absorb energy from the paretic leg during pre-swing in the community walker suggesting that deficits in swing initiation are a primary impairment. Rehabilitation strategies aimed at diminishing these deficits have much potential to improve walking function in these hemiparetic subjects and those with similar deficits.

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Differences in self-selected and fastest-comfortable walking in post-stroke hemiparetic persons. | Gait & Posture


Post-stroke hemiparetic walking is typically asymmetric. Assessment of symmetry is often performed at either self-selected or fastest-comfortable walking speeds to gain insight into coordination deficits and compensatory mechanisms. However, how walking speed influences the level of asymmetry is unclear. This study analyzed relative changes in paretic and non-paretic leg symmetry to assess whether one speed is more effective at highlighting asymmetries in hemiparetic walking and whether there is a systematic effect of speed on asymmetry.

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