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Bernadette Murphy


Faculty of Health Sciences

Leading researcher focused on how altering afferent input from the spine and limbs affects sensorimotor integration and motor control.

Contact information

Science Building - Room 348
North Oshawa
2000 Simcoe Street North
Oshawa, ON L1H 7K4

905.721.8668 ext. 2778
Human Neurophysiology and Rehabilitation Laboratory

Research topics

  • sensorimotor integration
  • neural adaptation and learning
  • neurophysiology of musculoskeletal treatments
  • chronic pain processing
  • neural effects of exercise


Dr. Bernadette Murphy completed an undergraduate degree in Life Sciences at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario in 1985 and then completed her four-year Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto, Ontario in 1989. Upon graduating, she travelled to Auckland, New Zealand where she completed her Master of Science (MSc) (First Class Honours) and PhD in Physiology from the University of Auckland. While completing her graduate studies, Dr. Murphy was the director of research at the New Zealand College of Chiropractic.

In 1999, she accepted a lectureship in the Department of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Auckland. She maintained a small clinical practice in addition to her academic work in the 18 years she spent in New Zealand; this experience informs both her research and teaching.

In 2004, she established a MSc in Exercise Rehabilitation at the University of Auckland. This involved setting up a clinic where monitored and supervised exercise could be undertaken and liaising with relevant government agencies in New Zealand to obtain recognition of the program and its graduates. She established a program aimed to use an evidence-based approach from the start and she incorporated this approach throughout the post-graduate curriculum. In December 2007, she came to UOIT to establish a Kinesiology stream in the Bachelor of Health Science program.


  • PhD Physiology University of Auckland
  • MSc Physiology University of Auckland
  • Doctor of Chiropractic Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College
  • BA Life Sciences Queen's University

Courses taught

Courses taught (past and present) at the undergraduate level:

  • Exercise Prescription and Principles of Fitness
  • Exercise Rehabilitation I
  • Exercise Rehabilitation II
  • Kinesiology I: Anatomy of Human Movement
  • Kinesiology II: Musculoskeletal Biomechanics

Courses taught (past and present) at the graduate level:

  • Neuroscience in Rehabilitation Kinesiology

Research and expertise

Research area of specialty: Altered neural processing in chronic musculoskeletal pain.

The overall theme of Dr. Murphy’s research is to understand how altering afferent input from the spine and limbs affects sensorimotor integration and motor control. She is also interested in understanding how the human central nervous system adapts in conditions such as chronic musculoskeletal pain and depression, and understanding the role of physical interventions in aiding the re-establishment of meaningful neural connections. In order to measure altered neural function in humans, she has acquired skills in a number of non-invasive techniques which can be used to measure changes in neural processing and function in humans. This includes nerve stimulation, somatosensory evoked potential techniques (SEPs) to measure processing of sensory input by the brain, electromyography to measure electrical activity in muscles, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which is a technique used to investigate the output of the human motor cortex. Recently she has also started to use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure changes in muscle function and functional MRI to investigate changes in brain function with exercise.

Dr. Murphy’s research plan is to continue to investigate altered sensorimotor integration in response to repetitive activity, using both SEPs and TMS in laboratory based studies. She is also involved in questionnaire development on neck pain incidence in laptop user and clinical studies of the effects of exercise and manipulation on sensorimotor integration in neck pain patients.

  • Dr. Heidi Haavik from New Zealand and Dr. Natalie Mrachacz-Kersting from Denmark on studies relating to altered neck input and upper limb sensorimotor integration.
  • Dr. Andrew Hogue and Dr. Bill Kapralos (UOIT Faculty of Business and Information Technology) and partners from the University of Manitoba, University of Toronto and the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in developing serious games to:
    • Teach safe lifting techniques to professions at high risk of back pain.
    • Develop serious games to train decision making for professions under high levels of cognitive and physiological stress.
  • Multi-disciplinary team from Lakeridge Mental Health, the University of Toronto and Harvard University looking at the mechanisms by which exercise improves brain function.
  • PhD supervisor for Michael Willams-Bell (2011-in progress). Working title: The Effects of Thermal Stress on Cognitive Decision Making in Firefighters.
  • Master of Health Sciences (MHSc) thesis supervisor for Jessica Bossé (2010-in progress). Working title: The Effect of Motor Training on Sensorimotor Integration.
  • MHSc thesis supervisor for Julian Daligadu (2010-in progress). Working title: The Role of the Cerebellum in Changes in Corticomotor Output Observed Following Motor Training.
  • MHSc thesis co-supervisor for Erin Dancey (2010-in progress). Working title: The Effect of Experimental Pain on Sensorimotor Integration and Cortico-motor Output.
  • MHSc thesis co-supervisor for Joanne Gourgouvelis (2010-in progress). Working title: The Role of Exercise in Promoting Hippocampal Activation and Improving Memory.
  • MHSc thesis supervisor for Ian Barker (2009 to 2011) – Alterations in Neck Muscle Performance and Proprioception with Fatigue, Altered Posture and Recurrent Neck Pain.
  • MHSc thesis supervisor for Diana Gray (2009 to 2011) – Development of Instruments to Assess Physiological and Physical Neck Pain Risk.
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Council (NSERC). The effect of altering afferent input from the spine and limbs on sensorimotor integration.
    • 2011, $135,000.
  • Australian Spinal Research Foundation. The effect of chiropractic care on cerebellar function.
    • 2011, $80,000
  • Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). Principal Investogator (PI)-sole investigator. The effect of altering afferent input from the spine and limbs on central sensorimotor integration.
    • 2010, $49,000
  • Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation. PI-sole investigator. The effect of altering afferent input from the spine and limbs on central sensorimotor integration.
    • 2010, $49,000
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Council. PI-sole investigator. The effect of altering afferent input from the spine and limbs on central sensorimotor integration.
    • 2010, $25,000
  • NSERC. PI-sole investigator. The effect of altering afferent input from the spine and limbs on central sensorimotor integration.
    • 2009 , $20,000
  • Australian Spinal Research Foundation Foundation Co-investigator with H. Haavik Taylor. Chiropractic care and Sensorimotor Integration.
    • 2008, $45,550 AUS
  • Australian Spinal Research Foundation Foundation. Co-investigator with H. Haavik Taylor and K. Holt, Sensorimotor Integration and falls in elderly. 
    • 2008, $39,315 AUS
  • Australian Spinal Research Foundation Foundation. Principal investigator with H. Haavik Taylor and J. Kruger, co-investigators/The effects of lumbopelvic adjustments on the function of the pelvic floor muscles.
    • 2007, $37,000
  • Auckland Medical Research Foundation.  PI-Travel grant. International Brain Research Organization World Congress Travel Grant.
    • 2007, $2,000
  • University of Auckland- Reseacher’s Strategic Support Initiative Awards. PI. The effect of exercise on cortisol levels and neural function.
    • 2007, $35,000
  • Australian Spinal Research Foundation. PI. P. Marshall-co-investigator, Rehabilitation and Neck Pain.
    • 2005, $42,283
  • University of Auckland Staff Research Fund. 

Sole investigator

  • Pelvic Floor Function in Elite Female Athletes imaged using magnetic resonance imaging and 3-D ultrasound.
    • 2005, $12,000
  • Auckland Medical Research Foundation. PI-travel grant. Travel grant to Movement Dysfunction conference in Edinburgh.
    • 2005, $2,000
  • Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research. PI-travel grant.Travel grant to Movement Dysfunction conference in Edinburgh. 
    • 2005, $2,000


  • Selected publications
    • Zabihhosseinian, M., Holmes, M., Murphy, B. (2015) Alteration in upper limb proprioception with altered afferent input due to neck fatigue. Experimental Brain Research; 233(5):1663-75.
    • Zabihhosseinian, M.*, Holmes, M., Ferguson, B*. Murphy, B. (2015) Neck Muscle Fatigue Alters the Cervical Flexion Relaxation Ratio in Sub-Clinical Neck Pain Patients. Clinical Biomechanics. Jun;30(5):397-404. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2015.03.020. [Epub ahead of print]
    • Andrew, D., Yielder, P. Murphy, B. (2015) Do pursuit movement tasks lead to differential changes in early somatosensory evoked potentials related to motor learning in comparison to typing tasks? Journal of Neurophysiology 113(4)1156-1164. :jn. 00713.02014.
    • Holland, L,Murphy, B., Passmore, S. Yielder, P., (2015) Time course of corticospinal excitability changes following a novel motor training task. Journal of Neuroscience Letters  591,:81 -85.
    • Andrew, D., Yielder, P., Haavik, H. Dancey, E.Murphy, B.  (2015) Somatosensory evoked potentials show plastic changes following a novel motor training task with the thumb. Clinical Neurophysiology 126, (3) 575–580.
    • Passmore, S.R., Bosse, J.,Murphy B., Lee, T.D. (2014). The impact and specificity of nerve perturbation on novel vibrotactile sensory letter learning. Somatosensory and Motor Research. 31(4)167-77. Doi. 10.3109/08990220.2014.90883.
    • Marchand, A.., Cantin, V, Murphy, B., Stern, P., Descarreaux, M. (2014). Is performance in goal oriented head movements altered in patients with tension type headache? BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2014, 15:179  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-15-179.
    • Dancey, E.,Murphy, B., Srbely, J. Yielder, P.  (2014). The effect of experimental pain on motor training performance and sensorimotor integration. Experimental Brain Research 232, (9) 2879-2889.
    • Willams-Bell, M., Kapralos, B., Hogue, A, Murphy, B, Weckman, B. (2014). Using serious games and virtual simulation for training in the fire service: a review; Fire Technology. DOI: 10.1007/s10694-014-0398-1.
    • Passmore, S.R. , Murphy, B., Lee, T.D. (2014). The origin and application of somatosensory evoked potentials as a neurophysiological technique to investigate neuroplasticity. Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association 58(2)170-182.
    • Baarbé. J., Yielder, P., Behbahani, H., Daligadu, J., Haavik, H., Murphy, B. (2014). A Novel Protocol to Investigate Motor Training-Induced Plasticity and Sensorimotor Integration in the Cerebellum and Motor Cortex. Journal of Neurophysiology. 111(4):715-21.
    • Haavik, H., Murphy, B. (2013). Selective changes in cerebellar-cortical processing following motor training. Experimental Brain Research. 231(4)397-403.
    • Daligadu, J., Haavik, H. Yielder, P. Baarbé. J, Murphy, B. (2013). Alterations in cortical and cerebellar motor processing in subclinical neck pain patients following spinal manipulation Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics 36:527-537.
    • Daligadu, J.,Murphy, B.,Brown, J., Rae, B., Yielder, P. (2013) TMS Stimulus-Response Asymmetry in Left and Right Handed Individuals, Experimental Brain Research. 224(3): 411-16. doi: 10.1007/s00221-012-3320-4.
    • Haavik, H. Murphy, B.A. (2012) The role of spinal manipulation in addressing disordered sensorimotor integration and altered motor control, Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology; 22:768–776;
    • Haavik Taylor, H. Murphy, B.A. (2011). Subclinical neck pain and the effects of cervical manipulation on elbow joint position sense. Journal of      Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 34:88-97.
    • Fairhall, S, Magnusson, J, Sharma, S and Murphy, B (2010). Memory Related Dysregulation of Hippocampal Function in Major Depressive Disorder. Biological Psychology, 85(3), 499-503.

    • Kruger, JA, Heap, SA, Murphy, B.A and Dietz, HP (2010). How Best to Measure the Levator Hiatus: Evidence for the Non-Euclidean Nature of the 'Plane of Minimal Dimensions.' Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology,36(6), 755-8.

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