- Assistant Professor, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine
- Institute Scientist, Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute
- Director-Scientific, Klein Family Parkinson’s Rehabilitation Center
Cognitive-Motor Learning Laboratory
Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute
50 Township Line Road, Suite 200, Elkins Park, PA 19027
Overview of the Cognitive-Motor Learning Laboratory
Movements are what enable us to interact with others and our environment; thus, the ability to move precisely and accurately is crucial throughout daily life. Moreover, as a society we recognize the value of the achievements of movement specialists such as athletes, dancers, and musicians. The goal of the Cognitive-Motor Learning Laboratory is to understand how interactions between the cognitive and motor systems allow us to acquire and maintain skilled actions and become movement experts. This includes identifying the processes that contribute both to the planning and the online control of actions.
Using motion tracking of the eye and arm in healthy individuals and in patients with neurological disorders, we aim to not only gain a better understanding of the motor system from a neurological and computational standpoint but also to identify new approaches to enhance rehabilitation efforts.
Research Focus Areas
Motor planning in imitation and tool-use
Imitation and tool-use actions involve the integration of cognitive and motor processes, and are selectively impaired in limb apraxia. However, the underlying processes that translate cognition into action remain poorly understood. This research project focuses on identifying the specific set of motor planning stages that support imitation and tool use and that become impaired in apraxia. In particular, we are examining the role of two complementary planning routes for praxis: planning abstract movement trajectories, and planning sequences of body configurations.
Interactions between reward, success, & effort
Moving reflects a trade-off between the effort that must be exerted to perform an action and the outcome (both extrinsic and intrinsic) to be gained. This trade-off in part influences choice preferences and the vigor with which a movement is generated, and an inappropriate effort-reward trade-off is thought to contribute to movement slowing (bradykinesia) in people with Parkinson’s Disease. This research project seeks to examine the influence of reward and success on behavior, how individuals trade off these outcome signals with effort and accuracy demands of the task, and whether people with Parkinson’s Disease exhibit impaired effort-reward trade-offs compared to neurotypical individuals.
State estimation for planning & controlling movement
The ability to plan and execute a movement accurately depends on the ability to keep track of where one’s body is in space (i.e., state estimation). Both the cerebellum and posterior parietal cortex have been linked to state estimation, although it remains unclear exactly what the role of these two brain regions are. This research project examines how neurotypical individuals estimate their current body position in space, how those estimates support controlling current actions and planning future movements, and how the state estimate is disrupted by disruption to the posterior parietal cortex or cerebellum.