Neurodevelopmental disorders and brain injuries in children have been associated with proprioceptive dysfunctions that will negatively affect their movements. Unfortunately, the knowledge of how proprioception evolves in typically developing children is still sparse due to the lack of reliable clinical examination protocols.
Jürgen Konczak, Ph.D.,professor in the School of Kinesiology, has received an appointment as 2017 Visiting Professor at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). TUM is one of Germany’s premier science institutions, comparable in scope to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the U.S. The TUM visiting professorship is awarded to scientists with an outstanding international reputation to promote intensive collaborations with TUM researchers.
As part of the professorship, Konczak will join the prestigious TUM Institute of Advanced Studies as an Honorary Fellow and is expected to give lectures to students, faculty and the university community. In addition, he will join the research team of Dr. Hermsdörfer in TUM’s Department of Movement and Health Sciences. The award provides the funds for Dr. Konczak’s stay in Munich and he will join the TUM faculty during the summer months in 2017.
Global sporting goods manufacturer Wilson Sporting Goods Company introduced a new line of high-technology performance tennis rackets that were field-tested in the School of Kinesiology’s Human Sensorimotor Control Laboratory (HSCL) directed by Jürgen Konczak, Ph.D.The participants were experts recruited from the U of M varsity tennis men’s and women’s teams, and testing took place at the U of M Tennis Center.
In tennis, the ball hitting the racket during tennis strokes induces a vibration of the racket frame, which transfers to the arm of the players. High vibration transfer may cause discomfort, induce earlier onset of fatigue and, with repeated exposure, increases injury risk. A racket design that can effectively reduce vibration transfer from the racket to the player’s arm should mitigate these negative vibration effects and aid to stabilize or improve a player’s performance.
Thus Wilson used Countervail technology, a one-of-a-kind layered carbon fiber that was originally designed for the aerospace industry to dissipate vibrational energy in airplanes. Strategic amounts of this material were incorporated into their new Blade performance tennis racket. HSCL measured the vibration in the rackets and determined how much these vibrations transferred to the arm, then compared the vibration behavior of this new design to another commercially available racket. In addition, the electrical signals from several arm muscles were recorded during the play to obtain electrophysiological markers of muscle fatigue.
A main finding of the study is that the new Countervail technology effectively reduces the vibration at the racket, which potentially can help players play longer while maintaining the precision of their strokes.
On November 30, Jürgen Konczak, Ph.D.,professor in the School of Kinesiology, delivered a lecture at the Graduate Program in Neuroscience Colloquium Series in the U of M’s Department of Neuroscience. His talk, titled “Somatosensory Plasticity in Human Motor Learning,” reviewed recent research on the neural changes that occur during sensorimotor learning.
The weekly colloquium is sponsored by the Graduate Program in Neuroscience and features external and internal speakers who are experts across the spectrum of neuroscience.
In collaboration with coworkers from the Italian Institute of Technology and Columbia University, Juergen Konczak, Ph.D., professor in the School of Kinesiology and director of the Human Sensorimotor Control Lab, published a paper entitled “Biofeedback Signals for Robotic Rehabilitation: Assessment of Wrist Muscle Activation Patterns in Healthy Humans” in Transactions on Neural Systems & Rehabilitation Engineering. Marianna Semprini is the first author and Konczak is the senior author.
An excerpt from the abstract: “Electrophysiological recordings from human muscles can serve as control signals for robotic rehabilitation devices. Given that many diseases affecting the human sensorimotor system are associated with abnormal patterns of muscle activation, such biofeedback can optimize human-robot interaction and ultimately enhance motor recovery. To understand how mechanical constraints and forces imposed by a robot affect muscle synergies, we mapped the muscle activity of 7 major arm muscles in healthy individuals performing goal-directed discrete wrist movements constrained by a wrist robot.”
This study examined the trainability of the proprioceptive sense and explored the relationship between proprioception and motor learning, using the wristbot developed by HSCL director Juergen Konczak, Ph.D. and collegues from Italy and Singapore.
Konczak’s grant aims to advance the commercialization of the Wristbot, a robotic system for the diagnosis and physical rehabilitation of sensory and motor dysfunction of the wrist and hand. It was developed in cooperation with international partners at the Italian Institute of Technology and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. The grant will enable the lab to perform two clinical studies that seeks to document the efficacy of the Wristbot system as a diagnostic and rehabilitation tool for people with Parkinson’s disease or for stroke survivors.
The HSCL, directed by Juergen Konczak, Ph.D. performs the necessary movement assessments on all participants before the study began, and again at six weeks after completion of the yoga program. To understand if yoga is beneficial for patients with Parkinson’s disease, the participants are tested for joint range of motion and for postural stability when standing and walking. See this information sheet for more details.
This study performed an extensive and systematic investigation of the human wrist position sense with the aim to systematically map wrist proprioceptive acuity of the wrist/hand complex using a robotic exoskeleton called Wristbot.
Jürgen Konczak, Ph.D., professor in the School of Kinesiology, traveled to Essen, Germany, last month to attend a one-day project meeting for a Human Sensorimotor Control Lab (HSC) study on patients with spinocerebellar ataxia. The study investigates whether patients with spinocerebellar ataxia may benefit from sensorimotor training early in their disease. The project is conducted jointly with the University Medical Center in Essen and is funded by the German Science Foundation.
Konczak also traveled to Bad Aibling, Bavaria, to visit a large neurorehabilitation clinic that treats over 500 cases of cortical stroke per year. Clinical researchers there are interested in HSC’s wristbot technology for stroke rehabilitation and discussed ways of using this experimental technology in their clinic. The wristbot is robotic device that can move a person’s wrist in a controlled way providing assistance to those who cannot move the hand/wrist due to injury.
Kinesiology doctoral candidate I-Ling Yeh has been awarded the School of Kinesiology’s second annual 2016-17 Doctoral Dissertation Award. Ms. Yeh is advised by Jürgen Konczak, Ph.D., and is a member of the Human Sensorimotor Control Lab. The title of her dissertation project is, “Can proprioception be improved and enhance motor function after stroke? Effectiveness of a novel robotic-aided training in adults with chronic stroke.” The award will provide a 50% research assistantship for the next academic year.
The Doctoral Dissertation Award allows accomplished Kinesiology doctoral candidates the opportunity to devote efforts to an outstanding research project under the mentorship of the student’s primary faculty adviser, states Li Li Ji, Ph.D., director of the School.
I-Ling Yeh, Kinesiology doctoral candidate in the Human Sensorimotor Control Laboratory and advisee of Kinesiology professor JürgenKonczak, Ph.D., received a travel grant of $500 from the American Occupational Therapy Association to present at the Occupational Therapy Research Summit in Pittsburgh on May 20. She presented early results of her thesis work titled “Can Proprioception be Trained in Chronic Stroke? Two Case Reports.”
Ms. Yeh also has been awarded a Women’s Philanthropic Leadership Circle (WPLC) Graduate Student Award of $2500 to use for her thesis research and preparation. The award will be presented at the WPLC Annual Awards Celebration on June 23. The mission of the WPLC is to “create a welcoming circle of women that combines its resources to support and develop women leaders and philanthropists through the College of Education and Human Development.”
Víctor J. Rubio, Ph.D., CCP, a School of Kinesiology Fulbright visiting scholar working with Kinesiology professor Juergen Konczak, Ph.D., gave a lecture on “Psychological Aspects Involved in Sustaining and Recovering from a Sport Injury” on June 2 at Springfield College, MA. The talk was sponsored by the Fulbright Scholar Program’s Outreach Lecturing Fund, which enables Fulbright visiting scholars who are currently in the United States to travel to other higher education institutions across the country. Dr. Rubio, who is from the University Autonoma Madrid in Spain, addressed faculty members and students in Springfield’s Department of Psychology and the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.
Research done in the Human Sensorimotor Control Lab directed by Professor Jürgen Konczak, Ph.D. was featured in an article by the College of Veterinary Sciences at Michigan State University as part of their “Vetschool Tails” blog. In a collaboration with Dr. Stephanie Valberg at MSU, Dr. Joshua Aman, a post-doctoral associate in the Department of Neurology at UMN, conducted research on equine shivers, a rare neuromuscular disorder affecting horses. Dr. Aman is an alumni of the School of Kinesiology, and graduated in 2012. To test the muscle recruitment pattern of a variety of horses with and without shivers, the researchers studied horses at the MSU McPhail Equine Performance Center using EMG techniques to measure muscle activity.
Professor Jürgen Konczak, PhD, director of the Human Sensorimotor Control Laboratory, together with colleagues from the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia and Nanyang Technological University of Singapore has been named inventor for an international patent application that was filed by the University and its international partners in Italy and Singapore. The patent concerns a robotic device intended for the physical rehabilitation of wrist and hand function. Clinical trials to show the efficacy of the device are currently conducted here at the University of Minnesota and two rehabilitation hospitals in Italy.
The Human Sensorimotor Control Laboratory led by professor Juergen Konczak, PhD recently received a contract from Visyn to record the pitching motion from elite baseball pitchers. The company produces digital movement skill learning software and will use the biomechanical data to produce scientifically sound animations of “best practice” elite pitches. The participants (i.e., the pitchers) will receive relevant cues and coaching tips that are based on objective movement data.