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Title: Neuroimaging of human motor control in real world scenarios : from lab to urban environment
Author: Pizzamiglio, Sara
ISNI:       0000 0004 7227 8183
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2017
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The main goal of this research programme was to explore the neurophysiological correlates of human motor control in real-world scenarios and define mechanism-specific markers that could eventually be employed as targets of novel neurorehabilitation practice. As a result of recent developments in mobile technologies it is now possible to observe subjects' behaviour and monitor neurophysiological activity whilst they perform natural activities freely. Investigations in real-world scenarios would shed new light on mechanisms of human motor control previously not observed in laboratory settings and how they could be exploited to improve rehabilitative interventions for the neurologically impaired. This research programme was focussed on identifying cortical mechanisms involved in both upper- (i.e. reaching) and lower-limb (i.e. locomotion) motor control. Complementary results were obtained by the simultaneous recordings of kinematic, electromyographic and electrocorticographic signals. To study motor control of the upper-limb, a lab­based setup was developed, and the reaching movement of healthy young individuals was observed in both stable and unstable (i.e. external perturbation) situations. Robot-mediated force-field adaptation has the potential to be employed in rehabilitation practice to promote new skills learning and motor recovery. The muscular (i.e. intermuscular couplings) and neural (i.e. spontaneous oscillations and cortico­muscular couplings) indicators of the undergoing adaptation process were all symbolic of adaptive strategies employed during early stages of adaptation. The medial frontal, premotor and supplementary motor regions appeared to be the principal cortical regions promoting adaptive control and force modulation. To study locomotion control, a mobile setup was developed and daily life human activities (i.e. walking while conversing, walking while texting with a smartphone) were investigated outside the lab. Walking in hazardous environments or when simultaneously performing a secondary task has been demonstrated to be challenging for the neurologically impaired. Healthy young adults showed a reduced motor performance when walking in multitasking conditions, during which whole-brain and task-specific neural correlates were observed. Interestingly, the activity of the left posterior parietal cortex was predictive of the level of gait stability across individuals, suggesting a crucial role of this area in gait control and determination of subject specific motor capabilities. In summary, this research programme provided evidence on different cortical mechanisms operative during two specific scenarios for "real­world" motor behaviour in and outside the laboratory-setting in healthy subjects. The results suggested that identification of neuro-muscular indicators of specific motor control mechanisms could be exploited in future "real-world" rehabilitative practice.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral