Dr. E. Paul Zehr

Dr. Paul Zehr - headshot


B.P.E. [Kinesiology] and M.Sc. [Human Biodynamics] (McMaster University), Ph.D. [Neuroscience] (University of Alberta)
Professor & Director, Centre for Biomedical Research, Division of Medical Sciences, School of Exercise Science, University of Victoria

Research Interests

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Dr. Zehr is interested in how the human nervous system controls movement. He works to better understand how the spinal cord produces coordinated arm and leg movements during walking in order to improve the rehabilitation of walking after damage to the nervous system. For example, he seeks to determine whether exercises that coordinate arm and leg movements can help stroke victims recover. He also studies how arm and leg reflexes change over a cycle of rhythmic movement such as walking, swimming, or cycling.

Dr. Zehr is a Principal Investigator at ICORD. He is also a Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Victoria, and the Chair of the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.

He loves working with ICORD because it is very helpful as a networking tool; it allows him to reach other researchers. He also says that ICORD provides a great “overall context for research programs.”

Early in his career, Dr. Zehr was studying walking like most other researchers: by focusing on the legs. It wasn’t until he drew an armless stick figure for an article that he realized how odd it was to ignore arms in a study of walking. Since all other mammals move their forelegs in a coordinated manner with their hind legs, why not humans? Thus, a simple armless stick figure propelled Dr. Zehr into his study of coordinated movement.

Techniques employed in the lab:

  • Nerve and muscle stimulation (electrophysiology)
  • Muscle recordings (electromyography)
  • Brain recordings (electroencephalography)
  • Biomechanics of movement (kinematics & kinetics)
  • Rhythmic arm and leg movement (integrated cycling, walking, and stepping)

Affiliation with organizations and societies:

  • American Physiological Society (APS)
  • Canadian Association for Neuroscience (CAN-ACN)
  • Motor Control Journal
  • Society for Neuroscience (SFN)


Some of Dr. Zehr’s recent major awards and accomplishments include:

  • Science Educator Award (Society for Neuroscience, 2015)
  • IPPY Silver Medal for Juvenile Fiction, “Project Superhero” (North American Independent Book Publishers, 2015)
  • Craigdarroch Knowledge Mobilization Award for Research Communication (University of Victoria, 2012)
  • Scholar, Biomedical Research Pillar (Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, 2003-2008)

Current Lab Members

Undergraduate Students Ph.D. Students Research Staff
Ben Nazaroff Bruno Follmer Hajer Mustafa
Terra Fairbanks
Zennie Banez
Konrad Herrmann
Sean Lider

* has graduated in the past year

Trainee Awards

Year Name Award
2016 Greg Pearcey Endeavour Research Fellowship (Australian Government)

Media and Videos

Bumps and Bruises from Bruce to Batman, and Beyond – Scientific American Invited Commentary (Dec. 4, 2012)

The Superhero in You – Dr. Zehr’s TEDx Edmonton Talk

The Batman Series: The Science of Hollywood Superheroes (a series by the Oscars’ Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

Recent publications

  • Zehr, EP et al.. 2024. Bacterial pneumonia-induced shedding of epithelial heparan sulfate inhibits the bactericidal activity of cathelicidin in a murine model.. Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00178.2023.
  • Sun, Y, Tabeshian, R, Mustafa, H, Zehr, EP. 2024. Using Martial Arts Training as Exercise Therapy Can Benefit All Ages.. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. doi: 10.1249/JES.0000000000000326.
  • Nazaroff, BM, Pearcey, GEP, Munro, B, Zehr, EP. 2022. Sensory enhancement of warm-up amplifies subsequent grip strength and cycling performance.. Eur J Appl Physiol. doi: 10.1007/s00421-022-04952-0.
  • Mustafa, H et al.. 2022. Five weeks of Yuishinkai karate training improves balance and neuromuscular function in older adults: a preliminary study.. BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil. doi: 10.1186/s13102-022-00458-6.
  • Pearcey, GEP, Smith, LA, Sun, Y, Zehr, EP. 2022. 1894 revisited: Cross-education of skilled muscular control in women and the importance of representation.. PLoS One. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0264686.
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