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Investigation of Methods for Assessing Sensorimotor Performance in Humans and Monkeys

Quick, Kristin M (2015) Investigation of Methods for Assessing Sensorimotor Performance in Humans and Monkeys. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The sensorimotor system's beauty becomes evident when the system is put to the test. In order to understand the neural and physiological mechanisms of motor control, researchers need tasks where the task difficulty can be adjusted. By studying the interplay between difficulty and the motor parameter of interest, we can begin to tease apart the inner-workings of how the sensorimotor system is able to act in the face of sensorimotor delay, perform macro- and micro-scale movements, and learn to perform new tasks.

We tested the ability of human and monkey subjects to perform a new task, called the Critical Stability Task. In this task, we can pressure the sensorimotor loop to act as quickly as possible, in order to look for deficiencies in the motor or sensory components of control. Additionally, the difficulty of this task is decided by a single number, which enables the subject's sensorimotor performance to be evaluated by a single number. This task will be valuable for testing and evaluating new forms of sensory substitution, new non-visual feedback methods for brain-computer interface control, as well as serve as a tool for neurological assessment.

While using this task in monkey subjects, it became apparent how little we know about the control of very small movements. In the Critical Stability Task, the majority of the movements are under +/-10mm, and only exceed this window once control becomes difficult. As such, we began an investigation of the neural representation of small amplitude movements.

Finally, we tested the neural constraints of learning a new task. We setup two different types of perturbed brain-computer interface (BCI) decoders. The first type maintained the prior patterns of neural activity, the second type required the monkey to generate new patterns of neural activity. We found that within a day, it was difficult for monkey subjects to learn to generate new patterns of neural activity. Taken together, task difficulty is a powerful tool for assessing sensorimotor performance. The only way to improve poor motor performance, be it natural control or BCI control, is to detect poor motor performance with the right assessment tool.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Quick, Kristin M
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBatista, Aaronapb10@pitt.eduAPB10
Committee MemberLoughlin, Patrickloughlin@pitt.eduLOUGHLIN
Committee MemberYu,
Committee MemberWeber, Douglasdjw50@pitt.eduDJW50
Committee MemberCham, Rakiercham@pitt.eduRCHAM
Committee MemberScott,
Date: 11 September 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 7 July 2015
Approval Date: 11 September 2015
Submission Date: 15 July 2015
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 149
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Swanson School of Engineering > Bioengineering
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: sensorimotor control, humans, monkeys, brain-computer interface, motor control, haptic, visual, vibrotactile feedback
Date Deposited: 11 Sep 2015 15:46
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:29


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