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Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that produces a characteristic set of neuromotor deficits that sometimes includes reduced amplitude and velocity of movement. Several studies have shown that people with PD improved their motor performance when presented with external cues. Other work has demonstrated that high velocity and large amplitude exercises can increase the amplitude and velocity of movement in simple carryover tasks in the upper and lower extremities. Although the cause for these effects is not known, improvements due to cueing suggest that part of the neuromotor deficit in PD is in the integration of sensory feedback to produce motor commands. Previous studies have documented some somatosensory deficits, but only limited information is available regarding the nature and magnitude of sensorimotor deficits in the shoulder of people with PD. The goals of this research were to characterize the sensorimotor impairment in the shoulder joint of people with PD and to investigate the use of visual feedback and large amplitude/high velocity exercises to target PD-related motor deficits. Two systems were designed and developed to use visual feedback to assess the ability of participants to accurately adjust limb placement or limb movement velocity and to encourage improvements in performance of these tasks. Each system was tested on participants with PD, age-matched control subjects and young control subjects to characterize and compare limb placement and velocity control capabilities. Results demonstrated that participants with PD were less accurate at placing their limbs than age-matched or young control subjects, but that their performance improved over the course of the test session such that by the end, the participants with PD performed as well as controls. For the limb velocity feedback task, participants with PD and age-matched control subjects were less accurate than young control subjects, but at the end of the session, participants with PD and age-matched control subjects were as accurate as the young control subjects. This study demonstrates that people with PD were able to improve their movement patterns based on visual feedback of performance and suggests that this feedback paradigm may be useful in exercise programs for people with PD.
Neural dynamics of single units in rat's agranular medial and agranular lateral areas during learning of a directional choice task
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.
Exploration of neural coding in rat's agranular medial and agranular lateral cortices during learning of a directional choice task
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.
Enhancing the perception of speech indexical properties of Cochlear implants through sensory substitution
Through decades of clinical progress, cochlear implants have brought the world of speech and language to thousands of profoundly deaf patients. However, the technology has many possible areas for improvement, including providing information of non-linguistic cues, also called indexical properties of speech. The field of sensory substitution, providing information relating one sense to another, offers a potential avenue to further assist those with cochlear implants, in addition to the promise they hold for those without existing aids. A user study with a vibrotactile device is evaluated to exhibit the effectiveness of this approach in an auditory gender discrimination task. Additionally, preliminary computational work is included that demonstrates advantages and limitations encountered when expanding the complexity of future implementations.
The ultimate goal of human movement control research is to understand how natural movements performed in daily activities, are controlled. Natural movements require coordination of multiple degrees of freedom (DOF) of the arm. Here, patterns of arm joint control during daily functional tasks were examined, which are performed through rotation of the shoulder, elbow, and wrist with the use of seven DOF: shoulder flexion/extension, abduction/adduction, and internal/external rotation; elbow flexion/extension and pronation/supination; wrist flexion/extension and radial/ulnar deviation. Analyzed movements imitated two activities of daily living: combing the hair and turning the page in a book. Kinematic and kinetic analyses were conducted. The studied kinematic characteristics were displacements of the 7 DOF and contribution of each DOF to hand velocity. The kinetic analysis involved computation of 3-dimensional vectors of muscle torque (MT), interaction torque (IT), gravity torque (GT), and net torque (NT) at the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. Using a relationship NT = MT + GT + IT, the role of active control and the passive factors (gravitation and inter-segmental dynamics) in rotation of each joint was assessed by computing MT contribution (MTC) to NT. MTC was computed using the ratio of the signed MT projection on NT to NT magnitude. Despite the variety of joint movements required across the different tasks, 3 patterns of shoulder and elbow coordination prevailed in each movement: 1) active rotation of the shoulder and predominantly passive rotation of the elbow; 2) active rotation of the elbow and predominantly passive rotation of the shoulder; and 3) passive rotation of both joints. Analysis of wrist control suggested that MT mainly compensates for passive torque and provides adjustment of wrist motion according to requirements of both tasks. The 3 shoulder-elbow coordination patterns during which at least one joint moves largely passively represent joint control primitives underlying performance of well-learned arm movements, although these patterns may be less prevalent during non-habitual movements. The advantage of these control primitives is that they require minimal neural effort for joint coordination, and thus increase neural resources that can be used for cognitive tasks.
The ultimate goal of human movement control research is to understand how natural movements performed in daily reaching activities, are controlled. Natural movements require coordination of multiple degrees of freedom (DOF) of the arm. Patterns of arm joint control were studied during daily functional tasks, which were performed through the rotation of seven DOF in the arm. Analyzed movements which imitated the following 3 activities of daily living: moving an empty soda can from a table and placing it on a further position; placing the empty soda can from initial position at table to a position at shoulder level on a shelf; and placing the empty soda can from initial position at table to a position at eye level on a shelf. Kinematic and kinetic analyses were conducted for these three movements. The studied kinematic characteristics were: hand trajectory in the sagittal plane, displacements of the 7 DOF, and contribution of each DOF to hand velocity. The kinetic analysis involved computation of 3-dimensional vectors of muscle torque (MT), interaction torque (IT), gravity torque (GT), and net torque (NT) at the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. Using the relationship NT = MT + GT + IT, the role of active control and passive factors (gravitation and inter-segmental dynamics) in rotation of each joint by computing MT contribution (MTC) to NT was assessed. MTC was computed using the ratio of the signed MT projection on NT to NT magnitude. Despite a variety of joint movements available across the different tasks, 3 patterns of shoulder and elbow coordination prevailed in each movement: 1) active rotation of the shoulder and predominantly passive rotation of the elbow; 2) active rotation of the elbow and predominantly passive rotation of the shoulder; and 3) passive rotation of both joints. Analysis of wrist control suggested that MT mainly compensates for passive torque and provides adjustment of wrist motion according to requirements of each task. In conclusion, it was observed that the 3 shoulder-elbow coordination patterns (during which at least one joint moved) passively represented joint control primitives, underlying the performance of well-learned arm movements, although these patterns may be less prevalent during non-habitual movements.
Assessing Performance, Role Sharing, and Control Mechanisms in Human-Human Physical Interaction for Object Manipulation
Object manipulation is a common sensorimotor task that humans perform to interact with the physical world. The first aim of this dissertation was to characterize and identify the role of feedback and feedforward mechanisms for force control in object manipulation by introducing a new feature based on force trajectories to quantify the interaction between feedback- and feedforward control. This feature was applied on two grasp contexts: grasping the object at either (1) predetermined or (2) self-selected grasp locations (“constrained” and “unconstrained”, respectively), where unconstrained grasping is thought to involve feedback-driven force corrections to a greater extent than constrained grasping. This proposition was confirmed by force feature analysis. The second aim of this dissertation was to quantify whether force control mechanisms differ between dominant and non-dominant hands. The force feature analysis demonstrated that manipulation by the dominant hand relies on feedforward control more than the non-dominant hand. The third aim was to quantify coordination mechanisms underlying physical interaction by dyads in object manipulation. The results revealed that only individuals with worse solo performance benefit from interpersonal coordination through physical couplings, whereas the better individuals do not. This work showed that naturally emerging leader-follower roles, whereby the leader in dyadic manipulation exhibits significant greater force changes than the follower. Furthermore, brain activity measured through electroencephalography (EEG) could discriminate leader and follower roles as indicated power modulation in the alpha frequency band over centro-parietal areas. Lastly, this dissertation suggested that the relation between force and motion (arm impedance) could be an important means for communicating intended movement direction between biological agents.
The interaction between visual fixations during planning and performance in a
dexterous task was analyzed. An eye-tracking device was affixed to subjects during
sequences of null (salient center of mass) and weighted (non salient center of mass) trials
with unconstrained precision grasp. Subjects experienced both expected and unexpected
perturbations, with the task of minimizing object roll. Unexpected perturbations were
controlled by switching weights between trials, expected perturbations were controlled by
asking subjects to rotate the object themselves. In all cases subjects were able to
minimize the roll of the object within three trials. Eye fixations were correlated with
object weight for the initial context and for known shifts in center of mass. In subsequent
trials with unexpected weight shifts, subjects appeared to scan areas of interest from both
contexts even after learning present orientation.
Lower-limb prosthesis users have commonly-recognized deficits in gait and posture control. However, existing methods in balance and mobility analysis fail to provide sufficient sensitivity to detect changes in prosthesis users' postural control and mobility in response to clinical intervention or experimental manipulations and often fail to detect differences between prosthesis users and non-amputee control subjects. This lack of sensitivity limits the ability of clinicians to make informed clinical decisions and presents challenges with insurance reimbursement for comprehensive clinical care and advanced prosthetic devices. These issues have directly impacted clinical care by restricting device options, increasing financial burden on clinics, and limiting support for research and development. This work aims to establish experimental methods and outcome measures that are more sensitive than traditional methods to balance and mobility changes in prosthesis users. Methods and analysis techniques were developed to probe aspects of balance and mobility control that may be specifically impacted by use of a prosthesis and present challenges similar to those experienced in daily life that could improve the detection of balance and mobility changes. Using the framework of cognitive resource allocation and dual-tasking, this work identified unique characteristics of prosthesis users’ postural control and developed sensitive measures of gait variability. The results also provide broader insight into dual-task analysis and the motor-cognitive response to demanding conditions. Specifically, this work identified altered motor behavior in prosthesis users and high cognitive demand of using a prosthesis. The residual standard deviation method was developed and demonstrated to be more effective than traditional gait variability measures at detecting the impact of dual-tasking. Additionally, spectral analysis of the center of pressure while standing identified altered somatosensory control in prosthesis users. These findings provide a new understanding of prosthetic use and new, highly sensitive techniques to assess balance and mobility in prosthesis users.
Anticipatory planning of digit positions and forces is critical for successful dexterous object manipulation. Anticipatory (feedforward) planning bypasses the inherent delays in reflex responses and sensorimotor integration associated with reactive (feedback) control. It has been suggested that feedforward and feedback strategies can be distinguished based on the profile of grip and load force rates during the period between initial contact with the object and object lift. However, this has not been validated in tasks that do not constrain digit placement. The purposes of this thesis were (1) to validate the hypothesis that force rate profiles are indicative of the control strategy used for object manipulation and (2) to test this hypothesis by comparing manipulation tasks performed with and without digit placement constraints. The first objective comprised two studies. In the first study an additional light or heavy mass was added to the base of the object. In the second study a mass was added, altering the object's center of mass (CM) location. In each experiment digit force rates were calculated between the times of initial digit contact and object lift. Digit force rates were fit to a Gaussian bell curve and the goodness of fit was compared across predictable and unpredictable mass and CM conditions. For both experiments, a predictable object mass and CM elicited bell shaped force rate profiles, indicative of feedforward control. For the second objective, a comparison of performance between subjects who performed the grasp task with either constrained or unconstrained digit contact locations was conducted. When digit location was unconstrained and CM was predictable, force rates were well fit to a bell shaped curve. However, the goodness of fit of the force rate profiles to the bell shaped curve was weaker for the constrained than the unconstrained digit placement condition. These findings seem to indicate that brain can generate an appropriate feedforward control strategy even when digit placement is unconstrained and an infinite combination of digit placement and force solutions exists to lift the object successfully. Future work is needed that investigates the role digit positioning and tactile feedback has on anticipatory control of object manipulation.