Dr. Kaylena Ehgoetz Martens receives Canada Research Chair and JELF funding

Wednesday, March 13, 2024
Kaylena Ehgoetz Martens

Dr. Kaylena Ehgoetz Martens, a researcher in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences, has received both a Canada Research Chair, Tier 2, in Gait and Neurodegeneration, as well a Canada Foundation for Innovation John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) grant. The Canada Research Chair (CRC) is worth $100,000 per year for five years, plus another $20,000 per year for the Federal Research Fund, while the JELF award is $100,000. 

Tier 2 Canada Research Chairs recognize exceptional emerging researchers as acknowledged by their peers for having the potential to lead in their field. JELF grants offer researchers the opportunity to acquire infrastructure to undertake innovative research. 

Ehgoetz Martens, who investigates the relationship between walking behaviour and neurodegeneration, says the goal of her CRC research program is to reduce the impact of neurodegeneration by understanding the complexity of walking to identify at-risk individuals and track their progression. “Ultimately, the goal is to determine whether walking behaviour might be a useful marker in clinical trials aimed at slowing or halting the progression of diseases like Parkinson’s.”

She said that by the time people get a diagnosis, their brains have been degenerating for decades. “If gait can be used as an early biomarker for neurodegeneration, it could have a tremendous impact on quality of life, not to mention reducing health-care costs.”

With an aging population and neurodegeneration being one of the leading causes of death in Canada, this research comes at an important time.

“There is also a concerted effort internationally to improve the outcomes for freezing of gait and eventually use wearable sensors to track freezing in daily life. These are big problems that need to be tackled in an integrative and collaborative way,” Ehgoetz Martens said. “I'm excited to be at Waterloo to engage with this work as a Canada Research Chair.”

Her JELF project is titled, “Can Gait Identify and Predict Brain Health?” New infrastructure from this grant will support a multidisciplinary approach, “combining detailed movement kinematics with mobile brain imaging, psychophysiological signals and virtual reality to understand the neural basis of gait and cognition in health and disease to advance health technology focused on preserving mobility and improving health.”

A total of 230 chairholders across the country were announced today, including Dr. Zahid Butt from the Faculty of Health, with 40 also receiving the additional support through JELF.