Graduate Student, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Tracking changes in the corticospinal tract activity during special treadmill training
Problems with walking is a common problem in people with neurological injuries or diseases. During rehabilitation of neurologically affected patients, physical therapists introduce a lot of “new” movements so that the patient’s body learns how to move in different environments. There is little research on the changes in the neural system while our body is adapting during rehab. To make therapeutic interventions more efficient, I think we must first understand the changes that occurs in our neural systems during movement adaptation. Currently, my reseach is looking at the changes in the corticospinal tract in healthy young adults. The corticospinal tract is the pathway from the motor cortex of our brain to specific muscles and it is important when we are doing any type of movement, but I am studying the changes in the corticospinal tract during walking. As you probably already know, healthy young adults walk pretty well in a lot of different environments! Depending of what kind of activities our healthy subjects do in their everyday life, they can be used to many different types of walking environments (e.g. messy room with a lot of obstacles, hiking on rough terrains, etc.). So to introduce this “new” environment for all our healthy subjects, I am using a special treadmill called the split-belt treadmill. This special treadmill is made up of two belts for each leg instead of one for both. This allows each leg to be manipulated differently. I use a 2:1 speed ratio where the “fast” leg walks at a speed of 1.0 m/s, where the “slow” leg walks at a speed of 0.5 m/s. I am measuring the corticospinal activity to the lower extremity muscle called the tibialis anterior throughout the time that people are walking on this treadmill for their first time. This muscle is super important in the neurologically impaired patients because this muscle is the muscle that helps the ankle joint flex up during walking- if this muscle can’t contract very well, the foot drops when the leg is up in the air, and it becomes a huge fall risk! By studying the changes in the corticospinal tract activity when healthy humans are walking in new environments, I hope to contribute to the science behind therapeutic interventions. Eventually, my goal is to develop effective gait interventions that are grounded in neural changes that occur during walking adaption to help neurologically impaired patients to regain their ability to walk efficiently!
Abstract: Walking, although a largely automatic process, is controlled by the cortex and the spinal cord with corrective reflexes modulated through integration of neural signals from central and peripheral inputs at supraspinal level throughout the gait cycle. In this study we used an additional cognitive task to interfere with the automatic processing during walking in order to explore the neural mechanisms involved in healthy young adults. Participants were asked to walk on a treadmill at two speeds, both with and without additional cognitive load. We evaluated the impact of speed and cognitive load by analyzing activity of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) using functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) alongside spinal cord reflex activity measured by soleus H-reflex amplitude and gait changes obtained by using an inertial measuring unit. Repeated measures ANOVA revealed that fNIRS Oxy-Hb concentrations significantly increased in the PFC with dual task (walking while performing a cognitive task) compared to a single task (walking only; p < 0.05). PFC activity was unaffected by increases of walking speed. H-reflex amplitude and gait variables did not change in response to either dual task or increases in walking speed. When walking under additional cognitive load participants adapted by using greater activity in the PFC, but this adaptation did not detrimentally affect H-reflex amplitude or gait variables. Our findings suggest that in a healthy young population central mechanisms (PFC) are activated in response to cognitive loads but that H-reflex activity and gait performance can successfully be maintained. This study provides insights into the mechanisms behind healthy individuals safely performing dual task walking.
Pub.: 07 Mar '14, Pinned: 01 Oct '17
Abstract: In this work we research the role of body dynamics in the complexity of kinematic patterns in a quadruped robot with compliant legs. Two gait patterns, lateral sequence walk and trot, along with leg length control patterns of different complexity were implemented in a modular, feed-forward locomotion controller. The controller was tested on a small, quadruped robot with compliant, segmented leg design, and led to self-stable and self-stabilizing robot locomotion. In-air stepping and on-ground locomotion leg kinematics were recorded, and the number and shapes of motion primitives accounting for 95% of the variance of kinematic leg data were extracted. This revealed that kinematic patterns resulting from feed-forward control had a lower complexity (in-air stepping, 2-3 primitives) than kinematic patterns from on-ground locomotion (νm4 primitives), although both experiments applied identical motor patterns. The complexity of on-ground kinematic patterns had increased, through ground contact and mechanical entrainment. The complexity of observed kinematic on-ground data matches those reported from level-ground locomotion data of legged animals. Results indicate that a very low complexity of modular, rhythmic, feed-forward motor control is sufficient for level-ground locomotion in combination with passive compliant legged hardware.
Pub.: 19 Mar '14, Pinned: 01 Oct '17
Abstract: Neuromotor processes are inherently noisy, which results in variability during movement and fluctuations in motor control. Although controversial, low levels of variability are traditionally considered healthy, while increased levels are thought to be pathological. This systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature investigates the thresholds between healthy and pathological task variability. After examining 13,195 publications, 109 studies were included. Results from over 3000 healthy subjects and 2775 patients revealed an overall positive effect size of pathology on variability of 0.59 for walking and 0.80 for sway. For the coefficient of variation of stride time (ST) and sway area (SA), upper thresholds of 2.6% and 265mm(2) discriminated pathological from asymptomatic performance, while 1.1% and 62mm(2) identified the lower thresholds for pathological variability. This window of healthy performance now provides science based evidence for the discrimination of both extremely low and extremely high levels of variability in the identification as well as standardised monitoring of functional status in neurological cases.
Pub.: 18 May '16, Pinned: 01 Oct '17
Abstract: Gait and balance disorders are common in Parkinson's disease (PD) and major contributors to increased falling risk. Predictive and reactive adjustments can improve recovery performance after gait perturbations. However, these mechanisms have not been investigated in young-onset PD.We aimed to investigate the effect of gait perturbations on dynamic stability control as well as predictive and reactive adaptability to repeated gait perturbations in young PD patients.Fifteen healthy controls and twenty-five young patients (48±5yrs.) walked on a walkway. By means of a covered exchangeable element, the floor surface condition was altered to induce gait perturbations. The experimental protocol included a baseline on a hard surface, an unexpected trial on a soft surface and an adaptation phase with 5 soft trials to quantify the reactive adaptation. After the first and sixth soft trials, the surface was changed to hard, to examine after-effects and, thus, predictive motor control. Dynamic stability was assessed using the 'extrapolated center of mass' concept.Patients' unperturbed walking was less stable than controls' and this persisted in the perturbed trials. Both groups demonstrated after-effects directly after the first perturbation, showing similar predictive responses. However, PD patients did not improve their reactive behavior after repeated perturbations while controls showed clear locomotor adaptation.Our data suggest that more unstable gait patterns and a less effective reactive adaptation to perturbed walking may be a disease-related characteristic in young PD patients. These deficits were related to reduced ability to increase the base of support.
Pub.: 11 Jun '16, Pinned: 01 Oct '17
Abstract: How the central nervous system (CNS) overcomes the complexity of multi-joint and multi-muscle control and how it acquires or adapts motor skills are fundamental and open questions in neuroscience. A modular architecture may simplify control by embedding features of both the dynamic behavior of the musculoskeletal system and of the task into a small number of modules and by directly mapping task goals into module combination parameters. Several studies of the electromyographic (EMG) activity recorded from many muscles during the performance of different tasks have shown that motor commands are generated by the combination of a small number of muscle synergies, coordinated recruitment of groups of muscles with specific amplitude balances or activation waveforms, thus supporting a modular organization of motor control. Modularity may also help understanding motor learning. In a modular architecture, acquisition of a new motor skill or adaptation of an existing skill after a perturbation may occur at the level of modules or at the level of module combinations. As learning or adapting an existing skill through recombination of modules is likely faster than learning or adapting a skill by acquiring new modules, compatibility with the modules predicts learning difficulty. A recent study in which human subjects used myoelectric control to move a mass in a virtual environment has tested this prediction. By altering the mapping between recorded muscle activity and simulated force applied on the mass, as in a complex surgical rearrangement of the tendons, it has been possible to show that it is easier to adapt to a perturbation that is compatible with the muscle synergies used to generate hand force than to a similar but incompatible perturbation. This result provides direct support for a modular organization of motor control and motor learning.
Pub.: 31 Dec '16, Pinned: 01 Oct '17
Abstract: Although motor adaptation is typically rapid, accumulating evidence shows that it is also associated with long-lasting behavioral and neuronal changes. Two processes were suggested to explain the formation of long-term motor memories: recall, reflecting a retrieval of previous motor actions, and faster relearning, reflecting an increased sensitivity to errors. Although these manifestations of motor memories were initially demonstrated in the context of adaptation experiments in reaching, indications of long-term motor memories were also demonstrated recently in other kinds of adaptation such as in locomotor adaptation. Little is known about the neural processes that underlie these distinct aspects of memory. We hypothesize that recall and faster relearning reflect different learning processes that operate at the same time and depend on different neuronal networks. Seventeen subjects performed a multisession locomotor adaptation experiment in the laboratory, together with resting-state and localizer fMRI scans, after the baseline and the locomotor adaptation sessions. We report a modulation of the cerebellar-thalamic-cortical and cerebellar-basal ganglia networks after locomotor adaptation. Interestingly, whereas thalamic-cortical baseline connectivity was correlated with recall, cerebellar-thalamic baseline connectivity was correlated with faster relearning. Our results suggest that separate neuronal networks underlie error sensitivity and retrieval components. Individual differences in baseline resting-state connectivity can predict idiosyncratic combination of these components.The ability to shape our motor behavior rapidly in everyday activity, such as when walking on sand, suggests the existence of long-term motor memories. It was suggested recently that this ability is achieved by the retrieval of previous motor actions and by enhanced relearning capacity. Little is known about the neural mechanisms that underlie these memory processes. We studied the modularity in long-term motor memories in the context of locomotor adaptation using resting-state fMRI. We show that retrieval and relearning effects are associated with separate locomotor control networks and that intersubject variability in learning and in the generation of motor memories could be predicted from baseline resting-state connectivity in locomotor-related networks.
Pub.: 13 Jan '17, Pinned: 01 Oct '17
Abstract: Accurate motor control is mediated by internal models of how neural activity generates movement. We examined neural correlates of an adapting internal model of visuomotor gain in motor cortex while two macaques performed a reaching task in which the gain scaling between the hand and a presented cursor was varied. Previous studies of cortical changes during visuomotor adaptation focused on preparatory and peri-movement epochs and analyzed trial-averaged neural data. Here, we recorded simultaneous neural population activity using multielectrode arrays and focused our analysis on neural differences in the period before the target appeared. We found that we could estimate the monkey's internal model of the gain using the neural population state during this pre-target epoch. This neural correlate depended on the gain experienced during recent trials, and it predicted the speed of the subsequent reach. To explore the utility of this internal model estimate for brain-machine interfaces (BMIs), we performed an offline analysis showing that it can be used to compensate for upcoming reach extent errors. Together, these results demonstrate that pre-target neural activity in motor cortex reflects the monkey's internal model of visuomotor gain on single-trials, and can potentially be used to improve neural prostheses.When generating movement commands, the brain is believed to use internal models of the relationship between neural activity and the body's movement. Visuomotor adaptation tasks have revealed neural correlates of these computations in multiple brain areas during movement preparation and execution. Here we describe motor cortical changes in a visuomotor gain change task even before a specific movement is cued. We were able to estimate the gain internal model from these pre-target neural correlates and relate it to single-trial behavior. This is an important step towards understanding the sensorimotor system's algorithms for updating its internal models following specific movements and errors. Furthermore, the ability to estimate the internal model before movement could improve motor neural prostheses being developed for people with paralysis.
Pub.: 15 Jan '17, Pinned: 01 Oct '17
Abstract: Significant advances have been made in developing new prosthetic technologies with the goal of restoring function to persons that suffer partial or complete loss of the upper limb. Despite these technological advances, many challenges remain in understanding barriers in patient adoption of technology, and what critical factors should be of focus in prosthetics development from a motor control perspective. This points to a potential opportunity to improve our understanding of amputation using neurophysiology and plasticity, and integrate this knowledge into the development of prosthetics technology in novel ways. Here, argument will be made to include a stronger focus on the neural and behavioral changes that result from amputation, and a better appreciation of the time-scale of changes which may significantly affect device adaptation, functional device utility, and motor learning implemented in rehabilitation environments.By strengthening our understanding of the neuroscience of amputation, we may improve the ability to couple neurorehabilitation with neuroengineering to support clinician needs in yielding improved outcomes in patients.
Pub.: 24 May '17, Pinned: 01 Oct '17
Abstract: Optimizing rehabilitation strategies requires understanding the effects of contextual cues on adaptation learning. Prior studies have examined these effects on the specificity of split-belt walking adaptation, showing that contextual visual cues can be manipulated to modulate the magnitude, transfer, and washout of split-belt-induced learning in humans. Specifically, manipulating the availability of vision during training or testing phases of learning resulted in differences in adaptive mechanisms for temporal and spatial features of walking. However, multi-trial locomotor training has been rarely explored when using visual kinematic gait perturbations. In this study, we investigated multi-trial locomotor adaptation in ten healthy individuals while applying visual kinematic perturbations. Subjects were instructed to control a moving cursor, which represented the position of their heel, to follow a prescribed heel path profile displayed on a monitor. The perturbations were introduced by scaling all of the lower limb joint angles by a factor of 0.7 (i.e., a gain change), resulting in visual feedback errors between subjects' heel trajectories and the prescribed path profiles. Our findings suggest that, with practice, the subjects learned, albeit with different strategies, to reduce the tracking errors and showed faster response time in later trials. Moreover, the gait symmetry indices, in both the spatial and temporal domains, changed significantly during gait adaptation (P < 0.001). After-effects were present in the temporal gait symmetry index whens the visual perturbations were removed in the post-exposure period (P < 0.001), suggesting adaptation learning. These findings may have implications for developing novel gait rehabilitation interventions.
Pub.: 06 Jul '17, Pinned: 01 Oct '17
Abstract: Both playing a musical instrument and playing sport produce brain adaptations that might affect sensory-motor functions. While the benefits of sport practice have traditionally been attributed to aerobic fitness, it is still unknown whether playing an instrument might induce similar brain adaptations, or if a specific musical instrument like drums might be associated to specific benefits because of its high energy expenditure. Since the aerobic costs of playing drums was estimated to be comparable to those of average sport activities, we hypothesized that these two groups might show both behavioral and neurocognitive similarities. To test this hypothesis, we recruited 48 young adults and divided them into four age-matched groups: 12 drummers, 12 athletes, 12 no-drummer musicians and 12 non-athletes. Participants performed a visuo-motor discriminative response task, namely the Go/No-go, and their cortical activity was recorded by means of a 64-channel electroencephalography (EEG). Behavioral performance showed that athletes and drummers were faster than the other groups. Electrophysiological results showed that the pre-stimulus motor preparation (i.e. the Bereitschaftspotential or BP) and attentional control (i.e., the prefrontal negativity or pN), and specific post-stimulus components like the P3 and the pP2 (reflecting the stimulus categorization process) were enhanced in the athletes and drummers' groups. Overall, these results suggest that playing sport and drums led to similar benefits at behavioral and cognitive level as detectable in a cognitive task. Explanations of these findings, such as on the difference between drummers and other musicians, are provided in terms of long-term neural adaptation mechanisms and increased visuo-spatial abilities.
Pub.: 03 Aug '17, Pinned: 01 Oct '17