Ask Victoria Poole what inspired her biomedical engineering career and she answers with no hesitation. It was her mother, an educator committed to tapping underrepresented populations to excel in science. And she was “a bionic woman of sorts.”
When Poole was young, her mother was seriously injured in a car accident, requiring multiple surgeries over the years. “I always knew there was a very significant role for technology, especially as it was applied to medicine,” she said.
In graduate school at Purdue, Poole used neuroimaging to reveal biochemical changes in the brain from hits football players regularly experience.
At Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, she used functional MRI to see how altered cerebral blood flow, neurodegeneration, brain pathology, and impaired cognition were all related to brain function and structure — and in turn how they limited mobility, leading to falls in older age.
Walking may seem simple, but as people age, their ability to move not only predicts future physical frailty but also reflects structural changes in the brain. She studies how the brain can compensate for different physical and cognitive limitations that come with age, examining the neural mechanisms shared by mobility and cognition.
In October, Poole moved back home to Chicago, where she is now pursuing a joint project between Hebrew SeniorLife and the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, looking at brain function and impaired mobility.
“I’m really interested in risk factors and lifestyle factors that impact the brain and a person’s mobility,” she said. “Mobility is a really big deal. It’s important for independence and for feeling in control of your life. It’s related to everything.”
Originally published in STAT News.