How effective can proprioception be trained?
Can the proprioceptive sense be trained? If so, what type of improvements can be observed and how will changes in proprioceptive function relate to improvements in motor function? For what type of diseases would such type of training be beneficial. These questions were addressed in a systematic review on the effectiveness of proprioceptive training that reviewed over 1250 studies. The report is published in the open access journal Frontiers of Human Neuroscience. For a direct link to the article click here: Aman et al. (2015)
Impaired body awareness in a voice disorder
We examined the sense of body awareness (proprioception) in adults with the voice disorder spasmodic dysphonia. Specifically, we assessed the ability of patients to sense the position of their arm in space. We use a specialized equipment, a passive motion apparatus, that very slowly rotates the forearm (see the photo to your right). The results indicate that impaired limb proprioception is a common feature of spasmodic dysphonia. Like other forms of focal dystonia, spasmodic dystonia does affect the somatosensation of non-dystonic muscle systems. A summary of the finidngs will appear in the Journal of Voice. This research was funded through a grant by the National Institutes of Health. For a free copy of the NIH public access document click here: Konczak et al. (2015)
Can proprioceptive training help to improve motor function in cerebellar ataxia?
Cerebellar ataxia affects the coordination and control of gait, posture, upper limb movements, oculomotor function and speech. Ataxia results from focal lesions, such as a stroke, or from a progressive neurodegenerative process. Degenerative cerebellar disease leads to a progressive loss of motor function. With few exceptions, no genetic or pharmacological treatment is available for patients with cerebellar degeneration to stop the disease. In collaboration with colleagues in Germany we will investigate if limb motor function of patients with a neurodegenerative cerebellar disorder can improve through a regime of proprioceptive training, that exploits intact explicit memory mechanisms. This project is an international collaboration with colleagues at the Universities of Essen and Kiel in Germany and is funded through a grant fromt the Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft (German Science Foundation).
Understanding focal dystonia in musicians
Musician’s dystonia (MD) is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary contractions of those muscles involved in the play of a musical instrument. It is task-specific and initially only impairs the voluntary control of highly practiced musical motor skills. MD can lead to a severe decrement in a musician’s ability to perform. While the etiology and the neurological pathomechanism of the disease remain unknown, it is known that MD like others forms of focal dystonia is associated with somatosensory deficits, specifically a decreased precision of tactile and proprioceptive perception. With the Italian neurologist Giovanni Abbruzzese at the University of Genoa, Italy we investigated the link between the somatosensory deficits and the overt dystonic movements in musicians with focal dystonia. For a direct link to the article click here: Frontiersin.org
Deep brain stimulation in Parkinson's disease improves haptic perception
Haptic perception relates to one's ability to perceive properties of objects through active touch. For example, one perceives the roundess of a cylinder while moving the hand around it. In everyday life, we use vision and haptics to find things out about the objects that we manipulate. In a new study we investigated to what extent haptic perception becomes impaired in Parkinson's disease(PD) and whether deep brain stimulation (DBS) can restore haptic precision in PD patients. A main finding of the study is that haptic acuity degrades in PD, but that DBS partially restores the precision of haptic sensing. That is, DBS has a beneficial effect on haptic perception. The results will be published in the journal Movement Disorders. Joshua Aman, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab is the lead author of the publication.