One primary focus is on understanding how the brian controls movement and learns new sensorimotor skills. Specifically, we are investigating how task performance (reward) drives action selection processes and how movement errors drive motor adaptation processes. The interaction of these processes influence our actions and execution of those actions. We primarily use visuomotor perturbations during reaching as a model task to understand these processes.
We use modeling to help understand the underlying computations that the brain must perform to move and learn new skills. Our approaches include optimal feedback control, state-space modeling, radial basis function networks, and Q-learning.
Individuals suffering from stroke or disease affecting the motor system have trouble performing motor tasks that most people take for granted. Much of our work has concentrated on individuals with Spinocerebellar Ataxia, which is a degenerative disorder that affects the cerebellum. By studying how the cerebellum contributes to movement, we hope to develop improved neurorehabilitation protocols to promote plasticity in unaffected neural areas and make the best use of the affected neural area.