Dr. Madeleine E. Hackney is a Research Scientist with the Center for Visual and Neurocognitive Rehabilitation at the Atlanta VA. She is also an Assistant Professor in the Emory School of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Division of General Medicine and Geriatrics.  She graduated from New York University, Tisch School of the Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance and completed pre-medical curriculum at Hunter College, City University of New York.  She received her PhD in Movement Science at Washington University in St. Louis and then completed post-doctoral work at Emory University and the Atlanta VA in geriatric sensorimotor rehabilitation.

Prior to matriculating in graduate school, Dr. Hackney had a career as a professional contemporary and ballroom dancer with international performance credits, including the movies, Mona Lisa Smile, and Mad Hot Ballroom, the musical, Evita and The Today Show. Since 2000, she has been certified as an American Council on Exercise (ACE) personal trainer and has several years of experience as an instructor of ballroom dance, yoga and Pilates. Her mentor, KathyGrant, was a direct protégé of J. Pilates. 

Dr Hackney is most known for her research regarding a program of adapted Argentine tango dance, which she designed and refined for targeting the mobility and cognitive impairments of older adults with and without Parkinson’s disease (PD). She has pursued research goals through two VA career development awards (CDA). The first award evaluated the effects of adapted tango versus mobility/balance training on function in older veterans with visual impairment. The second award, determines the neural correlates of internally and externally guided lower limb movement, and compares the efficacy of internally versus externally guided rehabilitation, delivered via adapted Argentine tango, in veterans with PD. 

Dr. Hackney uses laboratory and clinical measures to characterize mobility and gait under simple and challenging conditions (e.g., backward walking, dual tasking), computerized posturography to assess balance responses and a range of cognitive instruments. Her overall goals are to: (1) design optimal rehabilitative physical interventions for individuals with Parkinson’s disease, and older adults with respect to their cognitive abilities, and (2) detect mechanisms underlying movement pathologies by characterizing motor patterns in challenging conditions, (3) investigate neural pathways of motor control and remediation/compensation through imaging techniques and (4) design and evaluate educational programs that contribute to wellness and learning throughout the developmental lifecycle.  At the Atlanta VA, Dr. Hackney aims to determine the characteristics of physical rehabilitative strategies, in terms of motor pattern and timing, dosage, duration, intensity, and overall effectiveness that will have high compliance while enhancing balance, mobility and quality of life and reducing fall risk for older adults with low vision. She is keenly interested in identifying movement programming, pedagogical methods of movement instruction, and related aspects (i.e. music accompaniment, assisting devices and tools, environment) that will optimize group physical activities for specific populations. She also investigates aspects pertaining to improved quality of life, enjoyment, satisfaction and goal-attainment as a result of rehabilitative physical activity approaches.

Dr. Hackney has been dedicated to volunteer community service, including serving on the Advisory Council for the Parkinson Foundation Georgia and has recruited and mentored many undergraduates and graduate students to volunteer as assistants in group studies. She enjoys mentoring students. She has been an active member of the CVNR Outreach Committee since 2011 and is currently the chair. Dr. Hackney has served on VA Review Panel since 2013 and for the National Institutes of Health since 2017. She also reviews for the Czech Science Foundation and the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Translational Center. She has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) and several PD foundations. Dr. Hackney's work has been featured in the New York Times, Scientific American, in Oliver Sach's Musicophilia and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. She has presented her work nationally and internationally as an invited speaker, including at the Karolinska institute in Sweden, and in Tel Aviv, Israel. Dr. Hackney was the 2015 recipient of the Selma Jeanne Cohen Dance Lectureship award provided by the Fulbright foundation and was a finalist for the 2016 Atlanta Magazine's Groundbreaker of the Year. 

Research Interests:

Exercise, physical activity, dance, balance, Parkinson's, cognition, neurodegenerative, motor learning, motor control, education, learning

Publications: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/myncbi/madeleine.hackney.1/bibliography/public/

Phone: (404) 321-6111 x 205006

Email: madeleine.hackney@gmail.com


  • CVNR DEI Workgroup Chair
  • Member Birmingham-Atlanta VA GRECC
  • Assistant Professor (Emory University Division of General Medicine and Geriatrics)