The main focus of the lab is to study motor learning. In other words: how do we acquire new motor abilities (like serving a tennis ball) and what makes these new abilities stick?
Our two main overarching research themes are: 1) understanding basic mechanisms supporting these learning processes and 2) how we can exploit these mechanisms to try and modulate an individual’s motor behavior.
#1 – Neurophysiological mechanisms underlying motor learning and retention
- We study not only differential roles of the primary motor cortex (M1), cerebellum, and other motor-related areas (such as premotor cortex, spinal cord, etc) in motor learning processes, but how these roles might even change depending on the type of motor learning and different components of motor learning.
- Different types of motor learning: use-dependent plasticity, reinforcement learning, adaptation, skill learning
- Different components of motor learning: online vs. offline learning, movement time vs accuracy, explicit vs. implicit, etc.
- We also study these processes not only in healthy individuals, but also how these processes might vary after some kind of brain injury such as stroke, cerebellar degeneration, or traumatic brain injury. Importantly by better understanding neurophysiological and behavioral differences between healthy and impaired individuals can help elucidate potential therapeutic targets to try and improve neurorehabilitation strategies.
#2 – Modulating motor learning and retention
- We study how NINBS, reward, and practice schedule can be used to augment or disrupt motor behaviors not only in healthy individuals (understand the underlying substrates of the different components of motor learning), but also in patients to better improve neurorehabiliation strategies
- Importantly, understanding basic mechanisms of how some of these physiological changes are associated with improvements in motor behavior and how some of these physiological changes may go awry can lend some insight into potential therapeutic targets of how to try and get patients to look more similar to non-injured brain
Our currently active experiments involve healthy participants, stroke patients, and concussed athletes. These studies may involve non-invasive brain stimulation in the form of TMS or tDCS, reaching tasks similar to video games, pinching tasks, and/or other motor skill evaluations.
Interested in participating in one of our studies? Fill out your information below, and let us know what sort of studies you would like to sign up for!