The main idea behind the paper is to understand how memory is formed during motor learning. Researchers looked at a form of memory related to body awareness, i.e., “how it feels” when the body performs the newly acquired movement patterns. Research in the last years has recognized that such somatosensory and motor learning go hand-in-hand to form “motor memory.” Researchers show how training body awareness improves skill level. The impact of this work relates to neurorehabilitation, because people with stroke that affects the somatosensory cortex, i.e., the part of the brain involved with somatosensory learning, are the most difficult patients to recover. Sensory-based motor learning may help them to recover faster and more completely.
In an interdisciplinary collaboration with partners in veterinary medicine at the University of Minnesota and the Michigan State University, researchers in the Human Sensorimotor Control Laboratory examined horses with shivers disease.
An earlier study identified the previously unknown neuropathology of the disease – a degeneration of neurons in the cerebellum. Because the cerebellum is involved in coordinating the control of muscles during movement, the researchers wanted to find out how the loss of cerebellar function affects the muscle recruitment in these horses. Like humans, horses activate more muscle fibers if they want to run faster. However, these horses recruited more muscles and more muscle fibers than necessary, which led to a loss of movement coordination and problems in their balance.
Juergen Konczak, Ph.D., professor in the School of Kinesiology and director of the Human Sensorimotor Control Laboratory, gave a lecture on “Somatosensory training to overcome motor dysfunction in dystonia and Parkinson’s disease” to the University of Minnesota ataxia research group. The ataxia group is an interdisciplinary group of basic science and clinical researchers interested in understanding the neuropathology of ataxia and its treatment. Dr. Konczak spoke about how a sensory-based rehabilitation training can improve motor function in focal dystonia and Parkinson’s disease.
Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects up to 6% of all school-age children. Children with DCD have problems with coordinating movements, may have balance problems and show poor motor skill learning. This study assessed wrist joint position sense in a cohort of Taiwanese middle school children with DCD and related it to the observable motor deficits. Results document that children with DCD is associated with proprioceptive dysfunction of the wrist/hand complex, which likely contributes to the motor problems in children with DCD.
Yu-ting Tseng is currently a post-doc at the Division of Child Health Research, Institute of Population Health Sciences in the National Health Research Institutes (NHRI) in Zhunan, Taiwan.
The study examined to what extent a sensory training of body leads to improvements in motor function. The study found that a short 45-min training is already sufficient to see changes in the accuracy of perceiving joint position and joint movement. This project was a collaboration with engineering colleagues at Nanyang Technological University of Singapore and Harvard University, USA. Co-authors are former HSCL member Joshua Aman, Ph.D. and lab director Jürgen Konczak, Ph.D.
Konczak’s former advisee Yu-Ting Tseng, Ph.D. (2017), is also an author on the article. She is currently a post-doc at the Division of Child Health Research, Institute of Population Health Sciences in the National Health Research Institutes (NHRI) in Zhunan, Taiwan.
Jürgen Konczak, Ph.D., professor in the School of Kinesiology is the principal investigator on an NIH funded grant program administered through the University’s Office of Discovery and Translation that seeks to promote new therapies for rare diseases. The project will design and build a device that will improve the symptoms of a voice disorder called spasmodic dysphonia (SD).
People with SD experience involuntary spasms of the laryngeal musculature that leads to a strained or choked speech. There is no cure for the disease and speech therapy is ineffective. The device will alter how it feels when one speaks. The idea behind the technology is that this sensory trick will help patients to improve their voice quality. The device development and its testing will be conducted in Konczak’s Human Sensorimotor Control Laboratory.
Arash Mahnan, biomedical engineer and doctoral student in the HSC lab will serve as primary research assistant for this project.
Yu-Ting Tseng, Ph.D., 2017 graduate of the School of Kinesiology in the Biomechanics and Neuromotor Control emphasis, has been awarded a post-doc position in the Division of Child Health Research, Institute of Population Health Sciences in the National Health Research Institutes (NHRI) in Zhunan, Taiwan, starting in November. She will be conducting a study on the effect of different types of exercise intervention on the motor, cognitive and overall physical and mental functions in children and older adults. She may also assist in evaluating the status and needs for special needs populations.
Jürgen Konczak, Ph.D., professor and director of the Human Sensorimotor Control Laboratory in the School of Kinesiology, presented October 30 at the Academic Health Center’s Mini Medical School as part of their Fall 2017 series, “Medical Mysteries: Navigating Complex Health Cases.” His presentation with George S. Goding, Jr., M.D., professor in the Department of Otolaryngology, was titled “Finding a new treatment for the incurable voice disorder Spasmodic Dysphonia.” Konczak and Goding have been working with colleagues from Speech and Hearing Sciences and Engineering on a new treatment approach to improve the voice symptoms of patients with this voice disorder. Currently, there is no cure for the disease, though patients can get temporary relief through Botulinum toxin injections.
Comments from attendees after the presentation included:
This work gives me so much hope – what an interesting study! Very interesting topic, more education on these topics is necessary so I am glad I was able to hear this presentation. Appreciated the presentation from both Dr’s because of the overlap! Nicely simplified from complex information. Nice to hear U of M people are working together to make life better for those in need. Loved the comment about calling around the U to find experts to help solve problems. There is so much happening at the U of M!!
Mini Medical School is a five-week program offered each semester that is designed to give individuals with a shared interest in health sciences the opportunity to examine the scientific foundations of health and disease presented by internationally renowned U of M experts who are shaping the way health care is delivered locally and globally.
PACE stands for Perception and Action in Complex Environments. The network is funded by the European Union and seeks to train predoctoral students with a background in engineering, mathematics, neuroscience, and psychology.
Arash Mahnan, Kinesiology Ph.D. student and IT Fellow, is one of three people featured in the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance online newsletter, Global U, promoting Driven: The University of Minnesota Campaign, the first system-wide fundraising campaign at the U of M in more than a decade. The Alliance has set a goal of raising $7 million to “Drive a Global U.”
Mahnan discusses his goal to fill the gap between engineering and clinical research, and the imperative to attract top students and faculty from around the world to come to the University of Minnesota. He is a student in the area of biomechanics and neural control and is advised by Juergen Konczak, Ph.D.
This program prepares scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the university laboratory and to accelerate basic-research projects that are ready to move toward commercialization. The aim of this grant is to move forward the lab’s robotic rehabilitation technology that is jointly developed with partners in Italy and Singapore. As part of this grant, a team consisting of postdoctoral researcher Naveen Elangovan (entrepreneurial lead), Jürgen Konczak and Pat Tarnowski as a business adviser is formed. Pat is a trained PT with an MBA and is currently the Senior Director of Clinical Health Solutions at BCBS of Minnesota. The team will work closely with NSF staff and advisers to explore and understand the U.S. market.
The award for the project, “Graduate Training Program in Sensory Science: Optimizing the Information Available for Mind and Brain,” was granted jointly to the Center for Cognitive Sciences and the Center for Applied and Translational Sensory Sciences. The grant will enable the centers’ teams to initiate a new interdisciplinary graduate training program that unites a fundamental understanding of basic sensory science (vision, audition, motor control, speech and language) with deep technical expertise in engineering, computer science, and other related fields. The project will explore the development of effective assistive technologies for people with sensory deficits that have a major impact on an individual’s quality of life.
Konczak is a member of the faculty of the Center for Cognitive Sciences and director of the Center for Clinical Movement Science. Colleges providing support on the grant are the College of Education and Human Development, College of Liberal Arts, and College of Science and Engineering. More information about the award is available here.
Arash Mahnan, Kinesiology Ph.D. student in Movement Science, has been appointed to the University’s Senate Information Technologies Committee (SITC). The committee represents the institution’s faculty, academic professional, civil service and student interests in the development, implementation, and distribution of information technologies at the U. The committee reports to the Senate and makes recommendations concerning policies and administration around information technologies.
The committee meets monthly and consists of eight faculty, four P&A, three students, and one civil service representative. The students include Mahnan, a representative from the Department of Engineering and one from the College of Continuing Education. The student representatives were chosen based on their background, experience and qualifications in the field of information technology. Mahnan will serve a two-year term on the committee.
His Hungarian hosts comprised researchers with backgrounds in mathematics, physics, and cognitive neuroscience with an interest in modeling human movement and translating this knowledge to help patients with spinal cord injuries to regain function. The Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Magyar Tudományos Akadémia) is the most important and prestigious academic society of Hungary. Its main responsibilities are the cultivation of science, dissemination of scientific findings, supporting research and development and representing Hungarian science domestically and around the world.
Dr. Wade and Dr. Konczak first gave two keynote addresses at the China Preschool Children Health Conference held in Suzhou, a fast-growing modern city outside Shanghai. They then visited Shanxi University in Taiyuan, the capital city in Shanxi province in northwestern China with 4.2 million people. Next they traveled by high-speed rail to Tianjin, where they presented at Tianjin Sport University, a long-time partner of the School of Kinesiology. Their final lecture was at Hebei Universityin Shijiazhuan, where the first modern higher education institution in China was founded in 1895.
Kinesiology professors Juergen Konczak, Ph.D., and Michael Wade, Ph.D., addressed over 700 attendees of the Suzhou International Conference on Child Health Development. The conference centered around themes of how early childhood education best promotes cognitive, social, sensory and motor development. Suzhou is a city of about 10.5 million people in southeastern China. Kinesiology professor Li Li Ji, Ph.D., also attended the conference.
A faculty member and doctoral student in the School of Kinesiology have been selected to receive awards from the College of Education and Human Development’s Women’s Philanthropic Leadership Circle (WPLC).
Dahia Barr-Anderson, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School, has received the Rising Star Faculty Award of $1,500 to use for professional development. She joins an elite group of CEHD female faculty members in the college who have received this prestigious award.
Sanaz Khosravani, a Kinesiology doctoral student in the Human Sensorimotor Control Laboratory, will receive a $1,400 Graduate Student Ph.D. award based on the review committee’s assessment of her “academic achievements, community involvement, leadership, and passion for her academic and professional career.”
The awards will be conferred at the WPLC’s annual celebration on Tuesday, June 13, at the Town and Country Club in St. Paul.
Konczak provided an overview of his lab’s research on somatosensory deficits in Parkinson’s disease and dystonia and outlined how these sensory impairments may cause the motor deficits seen in the neurological diseases. He also presented recent work led by Dr. Naveen Elangovan, postdoctoral researcher in the lab, that showed that Parkinsonian symptoms can be improved through a specialized sensory training.