Dr. Stephen Brown

A photograph of Dr. Stephen Brown.
Associate Professor, Academic Advisor: Human Kinetics Major
Phone number: 
ext. 53651 (Office)
ANNU 335
ANNU 358, 362

I began my research career in the summer between my third and fourth undergraduate years, working with Dr. Jim Potvin at the University of Windsor.  One week into the summer and I was hooked.  I continued working with Dr. Potvin for my Master's degree, focussing my work on modelling lumbar spine stability, before moving to the University of Waterloo to do my PhD with Dr. Stuart McGill, focussing on all aspects of lumbar spine mechanics.

During my PhD work, I developed a pointed interest in studying, in much greater detail, the mechanics and physiology of the muscles of the spine and abdominal wall, which have unique designs and functions.  Therefore, I decided that for my Post-doc, I would to move down to the University of California San Diego to work in the muscle physiology laboratory under the guidance of Drs. Richard Lieber and Samuel Ward.  There, I developed techniques to study muscle mechanical function at the micro and macroscopic levels, using novel measurement tools such as laser diffraction to examine sarcomere dynamics.

At the University of Guelph, I plan to combine all of these tools to study both basic and applied questions regarding the lumbar spine and spine muscles, with the goal of reducing the incidence and prevalence of low-back related pain and injury.

BHK, MHK - University of Windsor 

PhD - University of Waterloo

Post-doctoral Fellowship - University of California San Deigo

My research interests are dedicated to understanding the mechanics and physiology of the lumbar spine and spine musculature.  This relates to four specific areas of study:

  1.  Function of the lumbar spine and spine muscles:
    • Understanding the anatomy of specific muscles and tissues of the spine, how they interact and are activated (muscles) and loaded (all tissues) to produce controlled movement
  2. Injury to the lumbar spine and spine muscles:
    • Susceptibility under different loading scenarios
    • Types and mechanisms of injury
  3. Adaptation of the lumbar spine and spine muscles:
    • Types of adaptations (to injury, changing internal or external environments)
    • Are the adaptations beneficial or detrimental?
  4. Rehabilitation of the lumbar spine and spine muscles:
    • Can detrimental adaptations be reversed or corrected?
    • Strategies for rehabilitation


Studies in the lab generally follow one of three main paradigms:

  1. Anatomical studies to characterize the mechanical capabilities of muscle and spine tissues:
    • Dissection and measurement of cadaveric human and animal tissues (eg. measurement of muscle physiological cross-sectional areas and sarcomere lengths to determine force generating and length changing capabilities, respectively) 
    • Modelling of functional capabilities based on these measurements
  2. Mechanical testing of muscle and spine tissues:
    • Passive and active mechanical properties of different spine muscles
    • Mechanical interaction between neighbouring muscles and tissues
  3. Testing of human participants to examine muscle activation (EMG), movement patterns and spine loading during a variety of tasks and perturbations:
    • Modelling muscle force generation, spine loading and stability


Information and insights obtained from the first two paradigms are used to feed into and out of the third paradigm, where the ultimate goal is to further the understanding of our four aforementioned “research themes”: human lumbar spine function, injury, adaptation and rehabilitation.

Zwambag DP, Beaudette SM, Gregory DE, Brown SHM.  Development of a Novel Technique to Record 3D Intersegmental Angular Kinematics during Dynamic Spine Movements.  Ann. Biomed. Eng.  2018; 46(2):298-309.

Cimino, S.R., Beaudette, S.M., Brown, S.H.M.  Kinesio Taping Influences the Mechanical Behaviour of the Skin of the Low Back:  A Possible Pathway for Functionally Relevant Effects.  J. Biomech.  2018; 67:150-156.

Larson, D.J., Brown, S.H.M.  The Effects of Trunk Extensor and Abdominal Muscle Fatigue on Postural Control and Trunk Position Sense in Young, Healthy Individuals.  Hum. Mov. Sci.  2018; 57:13-20.

Beaudette, S.M., Smith, S.G.V., Bent, L.R., Brown, S.H.M.  Spine Posture Influences Tactile Perceptual Sensitivity of the Trunk Dorsum.  Ann. Biomed. Eng.  2017; 45(12):2804-2812.

Gsell, K.Y., Zwambag, D.P., Fournier, D.E., Séguin, C.A., Brown, S.H.M.  Paraspinal Muscle Passive Stiffness Remodels in Direct Response to Spine Stiffness:  A Study Using the ENT1 Deficient Mouse.  Spine  2017; 42(19):1440-1446.

Glofcheskie, G.O., Brown, S.H.M.  Athletic Background is Related to Superior Trunk Proprioceptive Ability, Postural Control, and Neuromuscular Responses to Sudden Perturbations.  Hum. Mov. Sci.  2017; 52:74-83.

Beaudette, S.M., Zwambag, D.P., Bent, L.R., Brown, S.H.M.  Spine Postural Change elicits Localized Skin Structural Deformation of the Trunk Dorsum in vivo.  J. Mech. Behav. Biomed  Mater.  2017; 67:31-39.

Frost, L.R., Brown, S.H.M.  Muscle Activation Timing and Balance Response in Chronic Lower Back Pain Patients with Associated Radiculopathy.  Clin. Biomech.  2016; 32:124-130.

  • HK*4600 - Applied Human Kinetics II
  • HK*4240 - Occupational Biomechanics and Ergonomics
Athaide, K   MSc Student
Briar, K.   PhD Student
Bui, A.   MSc Student
Feier, C.   PhD Student
Siebenaller, A.   MSc Student
Valeri, S.   MSc Student