Our research is aimed at understanding the neural mechanisms that support recovery from movement deficits.
When our movements become inaccurate due to neurological damage, skeletomuscular injury, or aging, the brain uses adaptive mechanisms to improve movement accuracy. An understanding of the neuronal basis whereby this motor adaptation can be facilitated is needed to create an optimal rehabilitation strategy for patients with motor problems. However, thus far, little is known about the neural structures and the underlying mechanisms that might control the adaptation.
We use the saccadic eye movement system to study motor adaptation. Saccades, rapid eye movements that direct the gaze to targets of interest, are relatively simple: they rotate the eye using only 6 muscles against a relatively constant load. Although simple, saccades are very precise, so the knowledge gained from studying the mechanisms of saccade adaptation might bear on other goal directed movements, such as finger pointing, ball throwing, etc.
Our experimental techniques are electrophysiological (unit recording, micro-stimulation), pharmacological manipulation, behavioral, and optogenetic in awake, behaving monkeys. We investigate the neuronal circuit of brainstem, cerebellum, and basal ganglia.