Dr. Elise Townsend is a physical therapist, developmental scientist, and Board-Certified Specialist in Pediatric Physical Therapy with clinical and research interests in motor assessment and clinical management of children with rare neurogenetic and neuromuscular diseases. She has practiced clinically, engaged in collaborative clinical research, and worked on muscular dystrophy and spinal muscular atrophy clinical drug trials in the Pediatric Neuromuscular and Spinal Muscular Atrophy Clinics at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Earlier in her career, she practiced in Early Intervention for children aged 0-3 years in Charlestown and East Boston communities. Currently, she collaborates with Dr. Florian Eichler and the Center for Rare Neurological Diseases (CRND) at MGH as a Principle and Co-Investigator for clinical trials and clinical research aimed at accelerating progress in care for children with rare neurogenetic conditions.

Dr, Townsend is the Associate Director of the PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences program, an interprofessional program that trains clinical scientists to conduct research in health and rehabilitation-related fields.

  • 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

Motor assessment and clinical management of children with rare neuromuscular and neurogenetic diseases.

Dr. Townsend has published numerous papers - some titles are highlighted below. You can view a complete listing of Dr. Townsend's publications on ResearchGate or in her CV. 

Implications of circulating neurofilaments for spinal muscular atrophy treatment early in life: A case series. 

Natural history of 10-meter walk/run test performance in Spinal Muscular Atrophy: A longitudinal analysis. 

The development of a consensus statement for the prescription of powered wheelchair standing devices in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. 

Stander use in spinal muscular atrophy: results from a large natural history database.

Assimilation of the pediatric essential core competencies by professional physical therapist education programs. 


see researchgate profile


In addition, Dr. Townsend regularly presents at conferences and industry events. Please see her CV for a complete list of presentations.

GM2 gene therapy trial findings at European Society for Gene and Cell Therapy Annual Congress.

Electrical Impedence Myography Predicts Muscle Function in DM1 Patients at the 13th International Myotonic Dystrophy Consortium Meeting (IDMC-13). 

Associations between body composition estimates and motor function in ambulatory individuals with Duchenne muscular dystrophy at the World Muscle Society (WMS) 2022 Congress.

Transitioning from in-person to remote motor assessment of children with Canavan disease at the 2022 Autumn Conference of the International Society for CNS Clinical Trials and Methodology.

Interprofessional Student Learning in an Early Intervention Caregiver Group at the Nexus 2020 Summit of the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education, Interprofessional Clinical Learning Environments Theme.

Contact Information

Awards and Honors

CSM Outstanding Research Abstract Award, 2018

APTA Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy