Current Projects

Patterns of cortical oxygenation as a function of motor planning with different Tower of Hanoi puzzles in children with and without developmental coordination disorder

Our purpose is to investigate the overall activity of the PFC and whether there are patterns present in adults, all while attempting to solve a computerized and manual version of the TOH puzzle. To measure brain activity, we utilize functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), a non-invasive technique that indirectly measures neural activity by calculating changes in hemoglobin oxygenation. Furthermore, we plan to expand this study to typically developing children and ultimately, children with or at-risk for developmental coordination disorder (DCD), a poorly understood neuromotor disability that affects coordination in up to 6% of the population. Investigating the prefrontal cortex could help us elucidate whether issues with motor coordination arise due to deficits in motor execution, which would implicate either the primary motor cortex or lower order motor structures, or deficits in motor planning, which would implicate the PFC.

A longitudinal study of neural biomarkers of brain plasticity in a biofeedback rehabilitation protocol for stroke patients

Stroke, a leading cause of disability in the United States, often results in significant impairments to gait. To date, therapeutic interventions for stroke have had mixed results. To improve outcomes, an emerging trend has been the use of neurocentric interventions that utilize neuroplasticity of the cerebral cortex. Measurement of change in activation patterns in motor skills poses a challenge. Traditional neuroimaging techniques such as fMRI require patients to lie still, often within a confined space, with limited movement. By comparison, functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is the only noninvasive, sufficiently high resolution technique that can be utilized to study gait in an ecologically valid manner. One treatment that has potential in producing lasting changes in cerebral cortex activation patters is biofeedback. The proposed research will investigate the efficacy of mTrigger , an EMG based biofeedback device, in improving short and long-term gait characteristics using an at home training protocol that provides feedback on plantarflexor activation during push off. fNIRS will be used to observe neuroplasticity resulting from this rehabilitation regimen and detect neural biomarkers as a means to differentiate between temporary and relatively permanent underlying neural activation change characteristic of motor learning.