Elise Townsend, DPT, PhD, PCS

Associate Professor, Associate Director, PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences Program
PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences
Physical Therapy
(617) 724-6345
Office Location: 
B34 - 118

Elise Townsend, DPT, PhD, PCS, is Associate Professor and Associate Director of the PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences program.

Dr. Elise Townsend is a developmental scientist and Board-Certified Specialist in Pediatric Physical Therapy with clinical and research interests in assessment and management of children with neurogenetic diseases across their lifespan. She has practiced clinically and engaged in collaborative clinical research in the Pediatric Neuromuscular and Spinal Muscular Atrophy Clinics at Massachusetts General Hospital and practiced in Early Intervention for children birth to three years of age in Charlestown and East Boston communities. Currently, collaborates with Dr. Florian Eichler and the Center for Rare Neurological Diseases (CRND) at MGH to support clinical trials and clinical research in children with rare neurogenetic diseases and accelerate progress and treatment for rare conditions.

Elise is the Associate Director of the PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences program, which trains clinical scientists to conduct research in health and rehabilitation-related fields. 

Research Interests

Physical therapy assessment and management of children with rare neurogenetic diseases.


Recent publications:

Alves, C. R., Petrillo, M., Spellman, R., Garner, R., Zhang, R., Kiefer, M., Simeone, S. Sohn, J., Eichelberger, E.J., Rodrigues, E., Arruda, E.A., Townsend, E.L., Farwell, W. & Swoboda, K. J. (2021). Implications of circulating neurofilaments for spinal muscular atrophy treatment early in life: A case series. Molecular Therapy-Methods & Clinical Development, 23, 524-538.

Krosschell, K. J., Townsend, E. L., Kiefer, M., Simeone, S. D., Zumpf, K., Welty, L., & Swoboda, K. J. (2021). Natural history of 10-meter walk/run test performance in Spinal Muscular Atrophy: A longitudinal analysis. Neuromuscular Disorders, 32(2), 125-134.

Schofield, C., Evans, K., Young, H., Paguinto, S.G., Carroll, K., Townsend, E., Kiefer, M., McGuire, M., Sodhi, J., Bray, P., Bayley, K., Vorster N.M. & Downs, J. (2022). The development of a consensus statement for the prescription of powered wheelchair standing devices in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Disability and Rehabilitation, 44(10), 1889-97.

Townsend, E. L., Simeone, S. D., Krosschell, K. J., Zhang, R. Z., & Swoboda, K. J. (2020). Stander use in spinal muscular atrophy: results from a large natural history database. Pediatric Physical Therapy, 32(3), 235-241. doi: 10.1097/PEP.0000000000000713
Yeo, C., Simeone, S. D., Townsend, E. L., Zhang, R. Z., & Swoboda, K. J. (2020). Prospective cohort study of Nusinersen treatment in adults with spinal muscular atrophy. Journal of Neuromuscular Diseases, 7(3), 257–268.

Weaver, P. A., Catalino, T., Townsend, E. L., Martin, K., & Dole, R. L. (2020). Assimilation of the pediatric essential core competencies by professional physical therapist education programs. Pediatric Physical Therapy : The Official Publication of the Section on Pediatrics of the American Physical Therapy Association, 32(3), 267–274.

Krosschell, K. J., Kissel, J. T., Townsend, E. L., Simeone, S. D., Zhang, R. Z., Reyna, S. P., Crawford, T. O., Schroth, M. K., Acsadi, G., Kishnani, P. S., Von Kleist-Retzow, J.-C., Hero, B., D’Anjou, G., Smith, E. C., Elsheikh, B., Simard, L. R., Prior, T. W., Scott, C. B., Lasalle, B., … Swoboda, K. J. (2018). Clinical trial of L-Carnitine and valproic acid in spinal muscular atrophy type I. Muscle & Nerve, 57(2), 193–199.

EL Townsend, C Bibeau, TM Holmes (2016). Supported Standing in Boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Pediatric Physical Therapy 28(3): 320-329. 

CA Canapari, N Barrowman, L Hoey, S Walker, EL Townsend, BS Tseng & S Katz (2015). Truncal fat distribution correlates with decreased vital capacity in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Pediatric Pulmonology 50(1):63-70.



BA, Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Virginia
MPT, Physical Therapy, Emory University
DPT, MGH Institute of Health Professions
PhD, Child/Developmental Psychology with Neuroscience minor, University of Minnesota