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Graduate Defense: Danielle Siegel

January 25 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Dissertation Defense

Dissertation Information

Title: Learning To Roll: Characterizing Infant Rolling With Biomechanics

Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Engineering

Advisor: Dr. Erin Mannen, Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering

Committee Members: Dr. Sophia Theodossiou, Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering; Dr. Trevor Lujan, Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering; Dr. Tyler Brown, Kinesiology; and Dr. Omiya Hassan, Electrical and Computer Engineering


Rolling is an important developmental milestone for infants that encourages the muscle development and postural control needed to achieve more advanced movements like sitting, crawling, and walking. Despite its importance, limited research describes the muscle utilization required as well as the influence that nursery products may have on infant rolling. To address this knowledge gap, this work provides 2D video-based methods for identifying infant rolling techniques in a clinical or at-home setting, determines the muscle activation of infants rolling on a flat surface, and identifies how infant movements and muscle utilization are influenced by different mechanical environments. The main findings show that infants exhibit unique muscle activation patterns based on the coordinated movements chosen to achieve a roll and at an incline seatback angle of just 10°, significantly higher erector spinae and significantly lower abdominal muscle activation are exhibited compared to the flat surface. Furthermore, a new movement was exhibited in an inclined seat that has never been described on the flat surface alone. Collectively, this work provides additional resources for early diagnosis of motor delay and for targeted muscle activation therapies once infants are diagnosed. Additionally, this work may help prevent injuries and fatalities associated with commercial infant products.