We study how people move in connection to how they think.
We use the signals from the Peripheral Nervous Systems to help the Central Nervous System heal itself.
When we move around, some of our motions follow a purpose. They are deliberate and intended to accomplish some goals. Others, a large portion of our movements, occur below our conscious awareness. These motions are highly automatic and fast. Over the years we have developed ways to identify these classes of movements and ways to connect them with the corresponding classes of mental processes.
All motions, intended and automatic alike are inherently variable. Regardless of their functionality, not two movements are repeated in exactly the same way. There are random fluctuations across repetitions of the same motion that constitute a form of re-afferent sensory input flowing from the peripheral to the central nervous system. We can harness these micro-motions in connection to cognitive mental processes involved in decision making, planning and other tasks. These patterns of variability have a stochastic signature unique to each person. This signature is non stationary and serves to dynamically track both our rational intentions and our automatic intuitions.
We can objectively quantify mental and bodily processes to identify the best sensory motor capabilities of a person as well as the his/her mental predispositions. Along a broad spectrum, some people are more rational while others are more intuitive about their acts. In the controlled settings of the laboratory, their natural actions can reflect the nature of their mental processes. Their intentional and automatic movement patterns can reveal their degree of proficiency and their predispositions to acquire new knowledge in a rational or in an intuitive manner.
We apply these notions to the general population with the purpose of using the peripheral signal to induce plastic changes in the central control of actions. In particular we are successfully applying these ideas to Autism Spectrum Disorders. We seek to use the peripheral nervous systems as a proxy to unlock the volitional control of movements so as to bridge actions to intentions. In this way we can unravel the learning potential of these individuals and gain access to their hidden inner voices. Through the Peripheral Nervous Systems we boost the connection with the Central Nervous Systems and begin to help the brain heal itself.
Our subjects include children with developmental differences from their normally developing peers, adults who have suffered brain injury or have a motor degenerative disease and normal adults of similar age groups.
The main goal of our lab is to understand sensory-motor processes in order to
design sensory-driven therapies that help the brain heal itself.
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