Cristina Colón-Semenza , PhD (PI)

Assistant Professor, Kinesiology

Research Overview

I am broadly interested in motivation for exercise and physical activity. My long-term research aim is to increase the physical activity of people with neurological conditions to mitigate symptoms and disease progression. Specifically, I aim to engage individuals from underrepresented groups with neurological disorders through community-based participatory research. I am currently adapting a physical activity peer coaching program for individuals living with Parkinson disease who identify as Hispanic/Latinx or Black/African American. This is an extension of my prior work, a behavioral feasibility trial, grounded in Bandura’s social cognitive theory and self-determination theory. We used mobile health technology along with principles of behavior change in the general population of people with Parkinson disease. In addition, I have investigated the role of effort valuations and incentives to increase physical activity, especially in the face of impaired motivation, namely apathy and the anticipation of pleasure in neurological conditions (impairments in mesolimbic dopaminergic pathways). Finally, I am interested in the effect of physical therapist interventions upon mental health in those living with neurological conditions. My diverse clinical experiences in hospitals, rehabilitation clinics, and outpatient clinics for over two decades inform my research questions and drive for health equity.


PhD, Boston University, 2019
MPT, University of Delaware, 1998
BS, Rutgers College, 1996

Recent Publications

K. Rawson, J.T. Cavanaugh, C. Colon-Semenza, T. DeAngelis, R.P. Duncan, D. Fulford, M. LaValley, P. Mazzoni, T. Nordahl, L. Quintiliani, M. Saint-Hilaire, C. Thomas, G.M. Earhart, T.D. Ellis. Design of the WHIP-PD study: a phase II, twelve-month, dual-site, randomized controlled trial evaluating the effects of a cognitive-behavioral approach for promoting enhanced walking activity using mobile health technology in people with Parkinson-disease. BMC Neurology, 2020, April 20;20(1):146

C. Colón-Semenza, D. Fulford, T. Ellis. Effort-Based Decision-Making for Exercise in People with Parkinson Disease. Journal of Parkinson Disease, under review

T. Ellis, C. Colón-Semenza, C. Thomas, M. St. Hilaire, G. Earhart, L. Dibble. Evidence-Based Physical Therapy and Exercise for Parkinson Disease. Seminars in Neurology, under review

C. Colón-Semenza, N. Latham, L. Quintiliani, T. Ellis. Peer Coaching Through mHealth Targeting Physical Activity in People with Parkinson Disease: A Feasibility Study. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 2018, February 15; 6(2): e42

N. Wendel, C. Macpherson, K. Webber, K. Hendron, T. DeAngelis, C. Colon-Semenza, T. Ellis. Accuracy of Activity Trackers in Parkinson Disease: Should We Prescribe Them? Physical Therapy Journal, 2018, June

J. Lang, T. Kassan, C. Colón-Semenza, L. Devaney, M. Joseph. Test-Retest Reliability and Minimal Detectable Change for the 10-Meter Walk Test in Older Adults With Parkinson’s disease, Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy, 2016, Oct-Dec;39(4):165-70

JM Kinsella-Shaw , SJ Harrison , C Colón-Semenza, MT Turvey . Effects of Visual Environment on Quiet Standing by Young and Old Adults, Journal of Motor Behavior, 2006, Vol 38, No. 4, 251-264

Book Chapter

C. Colón-Semenza. Chapter 10: Exercise & Physical Therapy in the Management of Parkinson’s Disease in “A Free, Brief Guide to Parkinson’s Disease for Patients and Families” J. Friedman, Feb. 2020

Contact Information
Mailing Address3107 Horsebarn Hill Rd, Unit 4137, Storrs, Connecticut 06269-4137