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Delays in reticulospinal system are correlated with deficits in motor learning in older adults.

Description

Motor skill acquisition, the process by which individuals practice and consolidate movement to become faster, more accurate and efficient, declines with age. Initial skill acquisition is dominated by cortical structures; however as learning proceeds, literature from rodents and songbirds suggests

Motor skill acquisition, the process by which individuals practice and consolidate movement to become faster, more accurate and efficient, declines with age. Initial skill acquisition is dominated by cortical structures; however as learning proceeds, literature from rodents and songbirds suggests that there is a transition away from cortical execution. Recent evidence indicates that the reticulospinal system plays an important role in integration and retention of learned motor skills. The brainstem has known age-rated deficits including cell shrinkage & death. Given the role of the reticulospinal system in skill acquisition and older adult’s poor capacity to learn, it begs the question: are delays in the reticulospinal system associated with older adult’s poor capacity to learn?
Our objective was to evaluate if delays in the reticulospinal system (measured via the startle reflex) are correlated to impairment of motor learning in older adults. We found that individuals with fast startle responses resembling those of younger adults show the most learning and retention of that learning while individuals with delayed startle responses show the least. Moreover, linear regression analysis indicated that startle onset latency exists within a continuum of learning outcomes suggesting that startle onset latency may be a sensitive measure to predict learning deficits in older adults. As there exists no method to determine an individual’s relative learning capacity, these results open the possibility of startle, which is an easy and inexpensive behavioral measure, being used to predict learning deficits in older adults to facilitate better dosing during rehabilitation therapy.

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2019-05

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Can Startle Elicit Sequential Movements in Highly Trained Individuals?

Description

Most daily living tasks consist of pairing a series of sequential movements, e.g., reaching to a cup, grabbing the cup, lifting and returning the cup to your mouth. The process by which we control and mediate the smooth progression of

Most daily living tasks consist of pairing a series of sequential movements, e.g., reaching to a cup, grabbing the cup, lifting and returning the cup to your mouth. The process by which we control and mediate the smooth progression of these tasks is not well understood. One method which we can use to further evaluate these motions is known as Startle Evoked Movements (SEM). SEM is an established technique to probe the motor learning and planning processes by detecting muscle activation of the sternocleidomastoid muscles of the neck prior to 120ms after a startling stimulus is presented. If activation of these muscles was detected following a stimulus in the 120ms window, the movement is classified as Startle+ whereas if no sternocleidomastoid activation is detected after a stimulus in the allotted time the movement is considered Startle-. For a movement to be considered SEM, the activation of movements for Startle+ trials must be faster than the activation of Startle- trials. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect that expertise has on sequential movements as well as determining if startle can distinguish when the consolidation of actions, known as chunking, has occurred. We hypothesized that SEM could distinguish words that were solidified or chunked. Specifically, SEM would be present when expert typists were asked to type a common word but not during uncommon letter combinations. The results from this study indicated that the only word that was susceptible to SEM, where Startle+ trials were initiated faster than Startle-, was an uncommon task "HET" while the common words "AND" and "THE" were not. Additionally, the evaluation of the differences between each keystroke for common and uncommon words showed that Startle was unable to distinguish differences in motor chunking between Startle+ and Startle- trials. Explanations into why these results were observed could be related to hand dominance in expert typists. No proper research has been conducted to evaluate the susceptibility of the non-dominant hand's fingers to SEM, and the results of future studies into this as well as the results from this study can impact our understanding of sequential movements.

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2018-05

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Investigating the Effect of Sleep Deprivation on the Startle Response

Description

Older adults tend to learn at a lesser extent and slower rate than younger individuals. This is especially problematic for older adults at risk to injury or neurological disease who require therapy to learn and relearn motor skills. There is

Older adults tend to learn at a lesser extent and slower rate than younger individuals. This is especially problematic for older adults at risk to injury or neurological disease who require therapy to learn and relearn motor skills. There is evidence that the reticulospinal system is critical to motor learning and that deficits in the reticulospinal system may be responsible, at least in part, for learning deficits in older adults. Specifically, delays in the reticulospinal system (measured via the startle reflex) are related to poor motor learning and retention in older adults. However, the mechanism underlying these delays in the reticulospinal system is currently unknown.

Along with aging, sleep deprivation is correlated with learning deficits. Research has shown that a lack of sleep negatively impacts motor skill learning and consolidation. Since there is a link between sleep and learning, as well as learning and the reticulospinal system, these observations raise the question: does sleep deprivation underlie reticulospinal delays? We hypothesized that sleep deprivation was correlated to a slower startle response, indicating a delayed reticulospinal system. Our objectives were to observe the impact of sleep deprivation on 1) the startle response (characterized by muscle onset latency and percentage of startle responses elicited) and 2) functional performance (to determine whether subjects were sufficiently sleep deprived).

21 young adults participated in two experimental sessions: one control session (8-10 hour time in bed opportunity for at least 3 nights prior) and one sleep deprivation session (0 hour time in bed opportunity for one night prior). The same protocol was conducted during each session. First, subjects were randomly exposed to 15 loud, startling acoustic stimuli of 120 dB. Electromyography (EMG) data measured muscle activity from the left and right sternocleidomastoid (LSCM and RSCM), biceps brachii, and triceps brachii. To assess functional performance, cognitive, balance, and motor tests were also administered. The EMG data were analyzed in MATLAB. A generalized linear mixed model was performed on LSCM and RSCM onset latencies. Paired t-tests were performed on the percentage of startle responses elicited and functional performance metrics. A p-value of less than 0.05 indicated significance.

Thirteen out of 21 participants displayed at least one startle response during their control and sleep deprived sessions and were further analyzed. No differences were found in onset latency (RSCM: control = 75.87 ± 21.94ms, sleep deprived = 82.06 ± 27.47ms; LSCM: control = 79.53 ± 17.85ms, sleep deprived = 78.48 ± 20.75ms) and percentage of startle responses elicited (control = 84.10 ± 15.53%; sleep deprived = 83.59 ± 18.58%) between the two sessions. However, significant differences were observed in reaction time, TUG with Dual time, and average balance time with the right leg up. Our data did not support our hypothesis; no significant differences were seen between subjects’ startle responses during the control and sleep deprived sessions. However, sleep deprivation was indicated with declines were observed in functional performance. Therefore, we concluded that sleep deprivation may not affect the startle response and underlie delays in the reticulospinal system.

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Created

Date Created
2020-05

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The Impact of a Starting Acoustic Stimulus and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation on Reaction Times in Unimpaired Adults

Description

Motor skill acquisition, the process by which individuals practice and consolidate
movement to become faster, more accurate and efficient, declines with age. Initial skill acquisition is dominated by cortical structures; however as learning proceeds, literature from
rodents and songbirds suggests

Motor skill acquisition, the process by which individuals practice and consolidate
movement to become faster, more accurate and efficient, declines with age. Initial skill acquisition is dominated by cortical structures; however as learning proceeds, literature from
rodents and songbirds suggests that there is a transition away from cortical execution. Recent
evidence indicates that the reticulospinal system plays an important role in integration and
retention of learned motor skills. The brainstem has known age-rated deficits including cell
shrinkage & death. Given the role of the reticulospinal system in skill acquisition and older
adult’s poor capacity to learn, it begs the question: are delays in the reticulospinal system
associated with older adult’s poor capacity to learn?
Our objective was to evaluate if delays in the reticulospinal system (measured via the
startle reflex) and corticospinal system (measured via Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) are correlated to impairment of motor learning in older adults. We found that individuals with fast startle responses resembling those of younger adults show the most improvement and retention while individuals with delayed startle responses show the least. We also found that there was no relationship between MEP latencies and improvement and retention. Moreover, linear regression analysis indicated that startle onset latency exists within a continuum of learning outcomes suggesting that startle onset latency may be a sensitive measure to predict learning deficits in older adults. As there exists no method to determine an individual’s relative learning capacity, these results open the possibility of startle, which is an easy and inexpensive behavioral measure and can be used to determine learning deficits in older adults to facilitate better dosing during rehabilitation therapy.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
2020-05

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Startle can evoke individuated movements of the fingers; implications for neural control

Description

Startle-evoked-movement (SEM), the involuntary release of a planned movement via a startling stimulus, has gained significant attention recently for its ability to probe motor planning as well as enhance movement of the upper extremity following stroke. We recently showed that

Startle-evoked-movement (SEM), the involuntary release of a planned movement via a startling stimulus, has gained significant attention recently for its ability to probe motor planning as well as enhance movement of the upper extremity following stroke. We recently showed that hand movements are susceptible to SEM. Interestingly, only coordinated movements of the hand (grasp) but not individuated movements of the finger (finger abduction) were susceptible. It was suggested that this resulted from different neural mechanisms involved in each task; however it is possible this was the result of task familiarity. The objective of this study was to evaluate a more familiar individuated finger movement, typing, to determine if this task was susceptible to SEM. We hypothesized that typing movements will be susceptible to SEM in all fingers. These results indicate that individuated movements of the fingers are susceptible to SEM when the task involves a more familiar task, since the electromyogram (EMG) latency is faster in SCM+ trials compared to SCM- trials. However, the middle finger does not show a difference in terms of the keystroke voltage signal, suggesting the middle finger is less susceptible to SEM. Given that SEM is thought to be mediated by the brainstem, specifically the reticulospinal tract, this suggest that the brainstem may play a role in movements of the distal limb when those movements are very familiar, and the independence of each finger might also have a significant on the effect of SEM. Further research includes understanding SEM in fingers in the stroke population. The implications of this research can impact the way upper extremity rehabilitation is delivered.

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Date Created
2016-12

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Behavioral Basis of Sensorimotor Control and Learning

Description

Motor learning is the process of improving task execution according to some measure of performance. This can be divided into skill learning, a model-free process, and adaptation, a model-based process. Prior studies have indicated that adaptation results from two complementary

Motor learning is the process of improving task execution according to some measure of performance. This can be divided into skill learning, a model-free process, and adaptation, a model-based process. Prior studies have indicated that adaptation results from two complementary learning systems with parallel organization. This report attempted to answer the question of whether a similar interaction leads to savings, a model-free process that is described as faster relearning when experiencing something familiar. This was tested in a two-week reaching task conducted on a robotic arm capable of perturbing movements. The task was designed so that the two sessions differed in their history of errors. By measuring the change in the learning rate, the savings was determined at various points. The results showed that the history of errors successfully modulated savings. Thus, this supports the notion that the two complementary systems interact to develop savings. Additionally, this report was part of a larger study that will explore the organizational structure of the complementary systems as well as the neural basis of this motor learning.

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Date Created
2021-05

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The Role of Primary Motor Cortex (M1) in the Context-Dependent Interference

Description

A previous study demonstrated that learning to lift an object is context-based and that in the presence of both the memory and visual cues, the acquired sensorimotor memory to manipulate an object in one context interferes with the performance of

A previous study demonstrated that learning to lift an object is context-based and that in the presence of both the memory and visual cues, the acquired sensorimotor memory to manipulate an object in one context interferes with the performance of the same task in presence of visual information about a different context (Fu et al, 2012).
The purpose of this study is to know whether the primary motor cortex (M1) plays a role in the sensorimotor memory. It was hypothesized that temporary disruption of the M1 following the learning to minimize a tilt using a ‘L’ shaped object would negatively affect the retention of sensorimotor memory and thus reduce interference between the memory acquired in one context and the visual cues to perform the same task in a different context.
Significant findings were shown in blocks 1, 2, and 4. In block 3, subjects displayed insignificant amount of learning. However, it cannot be concluded that there is full interference in block 3. Therefore, looked into 3 effects in statistical analysis: the main effects of the blocks, the main effects of the trials, and the effects of the blocks and trials combined. From the block effects, there is a p-value of 0.001, and from the trial effects, the p-value is less than 0.001. Both of these effects indicate that there is learning occurring. However, when looking at the blocks * trials effects, we see a p-value of 0.002 < 0.05 indicating significant interaction between sensorimotor memories. Based on the results that were found, there is a presence of interference in all the blocks but not enough to justify the use of TMS in order to reduce interference because there is a partial reduction of interference from the control experiment. It is evident that the time delay might be the issue between context switches. By reducing the time delay between block 2 and 3 from 10 minutes to 5 minutes, I will hope to see significant learning to occur from the first trial to the second trial.

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Date Created
2014-05

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Startle-evoked movement in multi-jointed, two-dimensional reaching tasks

Description

Previous research has shown that a loud acoustic stimulus can trigger an individual's prepared movement plan. This movement response is referred to as a startle-evoked movement (SEM). SEM has been observed in the stroke survivor population where results have shown

Previous research has shown that a loud acoustic stimulus can trigger an individual's prepared movement plan. This movement response is referred to as a startle-evoked movement (SEM). SEM has been observed in the stroke survivor population where results have shown that SEM enhances single joint movements that are usually performed with difficulty. While the presence of SEM in the stroke survivor population advances scientific understanding of movement capabilities following a stroke, published studies using the SEM phenomenon only examined one joint. The ability of SEM to generate multi-jointed movements is understudied and consequently limits SEM as a potential therapy tool. In order to apply SEM as a therapy tool however, the biomechanics of the arm in multi-jointed movement planning and execution must be better understood. Thus, the objective of our study was to evaluate if SEM could elicit multi-joint reaching movements that were accurate in an unrestrained, two-dimensional workspace. Data was collected from ten subjects with no previous neck, arm, or brain injury. Each subject performed a reaching task to five Targets that were equally spaced in a semi-circle to create a two-dimensional workspace. The subject reached to each Target following a sequence of two non-startling acoustic stimuli cues: "Get Ready" and "Go". A loud acoustic stimuli was randomly substituted for the "Go" cue. We hypothesized that SEM is accessible and accurate for unrestricted multi-jointed reaching tasks in a functional workspace and is therefore independent of movement direction. Our results found that SEM is possible in all five Target directions. The probability of evoking SEM and the movement kinematics (i.e. total movement time, linear deviation, average velocity) to each Target are not statistically different. Thus, we conclude that SEM is possible in a functional workspace and is not dependent on where arm stability is maximized. Moreover, coordinated preparation and storage of a multi-jointed movement is indeed possible.

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Date Created
2016-12

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Neural dynamics of single units in rat's agranular medial and agranular lateral areas during learning of a directional choice task

Description

Learning by trial-and-error requires retrospective information that whether a past action resulted in a rewarded outcome. Previous outcome in turn may provide information to guide future behavioral adjustment. But the specific contribution of this information to learning a task and

Learning by trial-and-error requires retrospective information that whether a past action resulted in a rewarded outcome. Previous outcome in turn may provide information to guide future behavioral adjustment. But the specific contribution of this information to learning a task and the neural representations during the trial-and-error learning process is not well understood. In this dissertation, such learning is analyzed by means of single unit neural recordings in the rats' motor agranular medial (AGm) and agranular lateral (AGl) while the rats learned to perform a directional choice task. Multichannel chronic recordings using implanted microelectrodes in the rat's brain were essential to this study. Also for fundamental scientific investigations in general and for some applications such as brain machine interface, the recorded neural waveforms need to be analyzed first to identify neural action potentials as basic computing units. Prior to analyzing and modeling the recorded neural signals, this dissertation proposes an advanced spike sorting system, the M-Sorter, to extract the action potentials from raw neural waveforms. The M-Sorter shows better or comparable performance compared with two other popular spike sorters under automatic mode. With the sorted action potentials in place, neuronal activity in the AGm and AGl areas in rats during learning of a directional choice task is examined. Systematic analyses suggest that rat's neural activity in AGm and AGl was modulated by previous trial outcomes during learning. Single unit based neural dynamics during task learning are described in detail in the dissertation. Furthermore, the differences in neural modulation between fast and slow learning rats were compared. The results show that the level of neural modulation of previous trial outcome is different in fast and slow learning rats which may in turn suggest an important role of previous trial outcome encoding in learning.

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Date Created
2014

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Exploration of neural coding in rat's agranular medial and agranular lateral cortices during learning of a directional choice task

Description

Animals learn to choose a proper action among alternatives according to the circumstance. Through trial-and-error, animals improve their odds by making correct association between their behavioral choices and external stimuli. While there has been an extensive literature on the theory

Animals learn to choose a proper action among alternatives according to the circumstance. Through trial-and-error, animals improve their odds by making correct association between their behavioral choices and external stimuli. While there has been an extensive literature on the theory of learning, it is still unclear how individual neurons and a neural network adapt as learning progresses. In this dissertation, single units in the medial and lateral agranular (AGm and AGl) cortices were recorded as rats learned a directional choice task. The task required the rat to make a left/right side lever press if a light cue appeared on the left/right side of the interface panel. Behavior analysis showed that rat's movement parameters during performance of directional choices became stereotyped very quickly (2-3 days) while learning to solve the directional choice problem took weeks to occur. The entire learning process was further broken down to 3 stages, each having similar number of recording sessions (days). Single unit based firing rate analysis revealed that 1) directional rate modulation was observed in both cortices; 2) the averaged mean rate between left and right trials in the neural ensemble each day did not change significantly among the three learning stages; 3) the rate difference between left and right trials of the ensemble did not change significantly either. Besides, for either left or right trials, the trial-to-trial firing variability of single neurons did not change significantly over the three stages. To explore the spatiotemporal neural pattern of the recorded ensemble, support vector machines (SVMs) were constructed each day to decode the direction of choice in single trials. Improved classification accuracy indicated enhanced discriminability between neural patterns of left and right choices as learning progressed. When using a restricted Boltzmann machine (RBM) model to extract features from neural activity patterns, results further supported the idea that neural firing patterns adapted during the three learning stages to facilitate the neural codes of directional choices. Put together, these findings suggest a spatiotemporal neural coding scheme in a rat AGl and AGm neural ensemble that may be responsible for and contributing to learning the directional choice task.

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Date Created
2014