Dr Andrea Utley


This group addresses the mechanisms of control and disorders of co-ordination in conditions such as hemiplegic cerebral palsy and Developmental Coordination Disorder. A particular research interest is how children and adults with a range of movement difficulties are able to control their movements in a variety of contexts. Detailed analysis of reaching/ grasping and catching in children has revealed how these children attempt to control multiple degrees of freedom. It also addresses the assessment of movement and how manipulating the movement context can be used as a rehabilitative strategy. Explanations of motor development have taken a step forward through the application of ideas from proponents of dynamic systems, here movement involves the final product or whole being the active cooperation of many parts, and contains multiple subsystems all contributing in a unique manner (Thelen and Spencer 1998). The potential for some of these ideas have been initially explored in the context of reaching and grasping in children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy (Utley and Sugden 1998) and catching in children with DCD (Utley and Astill 2006). Such children have to overcome intrinsic constraints where the neural properties provide a direct link to the type of movement observed. External constraints such as task demands and context also influence the nature and extent of interlimb coupling. We are especially interested in the nature and extent of interlimb coupling and have provided evidence on the nature of bimanual co-ordination in children with cerebral palsy. This work has indicated that one solution to the degrees of freedom problem during upper limb movements is to couple the limbs therefore reducing the number of degrees of freedom to be controlled.

Collaboration with Leeds University Motor Impairment Group (LUMIG) and external collaborators at the University of Nijmegen (The Netherlands) and University of Minnesota (USA). Techniques employed include kinematic analysis, electromyography, eye-tracking and modelling.

In 2016 Dr Utley was awarded The Cutlers’ Surgical Prize by the Royal College of Surgeons for the design of the Yorkshire Micro Forcep.

Funding: British Council, ESRC, Nuffield Institute

  • Manual skills in children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy.
  • Learning to control multiple degrees of freedom during dynamic balance.

BA (Hons) Human Movement Studies 1984, PGCE Physical Education 1985. PhD University of Leeds 1998. Lecturer, School of Education, University of Leeds, 1993 - 1997. Senior Lecturer. Motor Control and Learning, Leeds Metropolitan University, 1997-1999. Senior Lecturer, Director Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Institute of Systems and Membranes Biology, University of Leeds, 1999 - current

Research interests

Motor and Behavioural Science Research Group

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  • BA (Hons), PGCE, Leeds Metropolitan, PhD 1998, Leeds

Student education

Studentship information

Undergraduate project topics:

  • Movement control from a dynamical systems perspective.

See also:

Modules managed

SPSC2240 - Human Motor Development
SPSC3061 - Research Project in Sport and Exercise Science II
SPSC3329 - Motor and Psychological Aspects of Rehabilitation

Modules taught

SPSC1031 - Motor Control: Foundations of Control and Learning
SPSC2240 - Human Motor Development
SPSC2309/2131 - Skill Acq and Motor Learning
SPSC3061 - Research Project in Sport and Exercise Science II
SPSC3061/5382M - SPSC projects
SPSC3301 - Inter-disciplinary Issues in Sport and Exercise Science
SPSC3329 - Motor and Psychological Aspects of Rehabilitation
SPSC3389 - Research Project
SPSC5314M - Personal Development and Employability for Sport and Exercise Scientists

Academic roles

UG Chair of Special Cases Committee - Sports Science programmes


Member of Undergraduate School Taught Student Education Committee

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