Decoding kinetic parameters of grasping movements from single unit activity in monkey motor cortex

Development of neuronal prosthetics, where neuronal activity is used to control artificial limbs, has so far relied on decoding kinematic parameters of movements, such as movement position or velocity. In addition to kinematic control, proper control of forces exerted by the prosthetic device is necessary for successful interaction with the environment. In our study, we analysed the possibility of classifying and decoding different grasp related forces during active grasping. Two macaque monkeys were trained to reach, grasp and pull an object in response to visual cues. Cues instructed the monkeys to grasp the object with one out of two grip types (precision or side grip) and pull the object with one of two different forces (0.5N or 2N). Monkeys obtained a food reward after successfully performing the instructed grip and pull. During the task execution, we recorded electrophysiological signals from the multielectrode arrays implanted intracortically in the hand and arm area of the monkey’s motor cortex. Six different parameters of the grip: four pressure forces on each side of the object, pull force on the object and the object displacement, were recorded simultaneously with the neuronal activity. Recorded neuronal activity was used to classify different grip types or loading forces, and to decode the continuous traces of different forces during the grip. Our results show that kinetic grip parameters can be decoded with high accuracy, thereby improving the feasibility of constructing fully functional anthropomorphic neuronal prosthesis that relies on kinetic (force) control.

Listed In: Biomechanical Engineering, Neuroscience

Balancing sensory inputs: Sensory reweighting of vision and ankle proprioception during a bipedal posture task

Multisensory integration is driven by a process of sensory reweighting during which each input is assigned a weight depending on the current functional state of a particular sensory system, the task itself and the context in which it is being performed. The primary aim of this study was to determine which of the two inputs between ankle proprioception and vision is upweighed during a postural control task when the two inputs provide conflicting information pertaining to direction of body sway. Achilles tendon vibration and visual flow were used to create sensory conflict, which produced center of pressure (COP) sway in opposite directions when applied independently. The baseline conditions (1) consisted of eyes open quiet stance condition, eyes closed with vibration applied on the Achilles tendons (2) and eyes open with visual flow (3). The experimental condition simultaneously combined vibration and visual flow. COP excursions were recorded in 10 healthy young adults to evaluate the magnitude and direction of sway produced by vibration and/or visual flow. Additionally, lower body joint kinematics were evaluated to understand the multi-segmental strategies and their adaptation to the various sensory manipulations. The results showed that visual flow moderated the extent of backward COP and ankle angular displacement produced when vibration was applied independently. Additionally, visual flow was also found to reduce the extent of predominant hip strategy generated by ankle vibration. The findings show that visual input plays a significant role in maintaining stability and that ankle proprioception is downweighed during conflicts between vision and proprioception. This has important implication for balance training using controlled visual flow in patients with balance disorders and elderly.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Neuroscience, Posturography


Sensorimotor changes such as postural and gait instabilities can affect the functional performance of astronauts after gravitational transitions. When astronauts are trained before flight with supra-threshold noisy, stochastic vestibular stimulation (SVS), the central nervous system can be trained to reweight sensory information by using veridical information from other sensory inputs (such as vision and proprioception) for postural and gait control. This reweighting, in turn, can enhance functional performance in novel gravitational environments. However, the optimal maximum amplitude of stimulation has not yet been identified that can simulate the effect of deterioration in vestibular inputs for preflight training or for evaluating vestibular contribution in functional tests in general. Most studies have used arbitrary but fixed maximum current amplitudes from 3 to 5 mA in the mediolateral (ML) direction to disrupt balance function in both ML and anterior-posterior directions in healthy adults. The goal of this study was to determine the minimum SVS level that yields an equivalently degraded balance performance. Fourteen subjects stood on a compliant surface with their eyes closed and were instructed to maintain a stable upright stance. Measures of stability of the head, trunk, and whole body were quantified in the ML direction. Objective perceptual motion thresholds were estimated ahead of time by having subjects sit on a chair with their eyes closed and giving 1-Hz bipolar binaural sinusoidal electrical stimulation at various current amplitudes. Results from the balance task suggest that using stimulation amplitudes of 280% of motion-perceptual threshold (~2.2 mA on average) significantly degraded balance performance.

Listed In: Biomechanics, Neuroscience, Posturography

Dance May Improve Quality of Life But Not Gait in Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease

Purpose: Research supports the use of ballroom dance to improve balance in individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD). This study used the Mark Morris Dance for PD program as a template for dance classes to examine the effects of dance on gait, balance, and quality of life in individuals with PD. Subjects : Eleven individuals with mild to moderate PD participated in the study. Methods : A trained instructor led dance classes for subjects once a week for 12 weeks. Participants were encouraged to use the Mark Morris Dance for PD At Home DVD twice a week for 45 minutes. Classes included a 20 min. seated warm up; a 20 min. supported standing portion focused on balance and strength; and 30 min. partnered movements for swing, shag, or tango. Data collected before and after the intervention included gait parameters (Protokinetics Zeno walkway), sway area (AMTI force platform) during mCTSIB, Mini-BESTest, Falls Efficacy Scale, Apathy Scale and PDQ-39. A paired-samples t-test was performed. Results : Participants had significant decrease in apathy following the intervention (P = 0.018). A significant decrease in the percentage of the double support phase of gait indicated individuals spent less time with both feet in contact with the ground (P = 0.019). Conclusions : An instructor-led dance class based on the Dance for PD program once per week for 12 weeks improved certain aspects of quality of life, but not necessarily gait and balance. Further research with increased frequency of supervised dance classes is indicated.
Listed In: Gait, Neuroscience, Physical Therapy

'Moving Forward': Gait, Cognition and Associated Risk Factors: Insights from SHARE and TILDA

The established pathway of cognitive decline identifies Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) as a common pre-dementia syndrome. As MCI can represent the endpoint of cognitive decline or a transient state, more predictive diagnostic tools are required. A new pre-dementia syndrome, Motoric Cognitive Risk (MCR) syndrome, has been proposed. It is defined by slow gait and cognitive complaints but absence of dementia and mobility disability. MCR aims to improve on the predictive power of MCI, this study aims to explore it’s claim. Associations have been uncovered between differing cognitive domains and specific characteristics of gait. Leveraging the gait-cognitive function relationship is a novel approach to potentially highlighting those experiencing cognitive decline. However, the diagnostic tool of MCR is a new construct and currently imperfect, its efficacy not fully validated and sensitivity for dementia prediction relatively unknown. Reliable data on prevalence and risk factors help contribute to this validation process. In this presentation prevalence data for a multi-country aging study and a nationally representative community dwelling aging study will be presented. The variables available in both datasets which will be of interest in this study include; Gait Speed, Global Cognition (Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) score), Presence of Cognitive Complaints, Age, Body Mass Index (BMI), Dementia diagnosis (reported or imputed) and Waist Circumference. This study will inform the following research project, which will aim to assess whether specific gait components or combinations alone are better than the MCR construct in their association to cognitive decline.
Listed In: Gait, Neuroscience

Sensory contributions to standing balance in unilateral vestibulopathy

Patients with unilateral peripheral vestibular disorder (UPVD) have diminished postural stability and therefore the aim of this study was to examine the contribution of multiple sensory systems to postural control in UPVD. Seventeen adults with UPVD and 17 healthy controls participated in this study. Centre of pressure (COP) trajectories were assessed using a force plate during six standing tasks: Forwards and backwards leaning, and standing with and without Achilles tendon vibration, each with eyes open and eyes closed. Postural stability was evaluated over 30s by means of: total COP excursion distance (COPPath) and the distances between the most anterior and posterior points of the COPPath and the anterior and posterior anatomical boundaries of the base of support (COPAmin and COPPmin). In addition, the corrected COPAmin and COPPmin was assessed by taking the corrected base of support boundaries into account using the anterior and posterior COP data from the leaning tasks. UPVD patients showed a tendency for smaller limits of stability during the leaning tasks in both directions. Subject group and task condition effects were found (P<0.05) for COPPath, (i.e. higher values for patients compared to controls). UPVD patients showed lower (P<0.05) COPPmin values compared to the control group for all conditions (more pronounced with the corrected COPPmin). Disturbance of the visual system alone lead to a distinct postural backward sway in both subject groups which became significantly more pronounced in combination with Achilles tendon vibration. The individual limits of stability should be considered in future research when conducting posturographic measurements.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Neuroscience, Physical Therapy, Posturography

Static postural control does not strongly predict dynamic gait stability recovery following a trip in adults with and without vestibular dysfunction

Unilateral peripheral vestibular disorder (UPVD) negatively affects upper and lower body motor performance, but postural control during quiet stance in UPVD patients has not been directly compared with dynamic stability control after an unexpected perturbation during locomotion. We analysed centre of pressure (COP) characteristics during static posturography in UPVD patients and healthy controls and compared this with performance of a trip recovery task. 17 UPVD patients and 17 healthy controls were unexpectedly tripped while walking on a treadmill. The margin of stability (MoS) was calculated at touchdown (TD) of the perturbed step and the first six recovery steps. Posturography was used to assess postural stability during 30 seconds of standing with eyes open and closed using a force plate. The trip reduced the MoS of the perturbed leg (p<0.05) with no significant differences in MoS between the groups. Controls returned to MoS baseline level in five steps and patients did not return within the six steps. UPVD patients showed a greater total COP sway path excursion (closed eyes only), anterior-posterior range of COP distance and a more posterior COP position in relation to the posterior boundary of the base of support. There were no significant correlations between COP sway path excursion and MoS values. We concluded that UPVD patients have a diminished ability to control and recover dynamic gait stability after an unexpected trip and lower static postural stability control compared to healthy matched controls, but that trip recovery and static postural control rely on different control mechanisms.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Gait, Neuroscience, Physical Therapy, Posturography

Effect of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation on Gait Kinematics in Subjects with Anterior Knee Pain

Knee pain is 1 of 5 leading causes of disability by altering lower-extremity muscle function and gait mechanics. While transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) mitigates deficits of muscle function due to pain, it is unclear whether TENS improves gait mechanics. Each of 15 participant (24±3yrs, 71±12kg, 178±7cm) was assigned to the TENS or matched placebo group (23±2yrs, 72±14kg, 177±9cm). Participants underwent 3 different experimental saline infusion sessions (hypertonic, isotonic, control) in a counterbalanced order, separated by 48-h. Hypertonic (5% NaCl) or isotonic (0.9% NaCl) saline was infused into the infrapatellar fat pad for 50-min. No infusion was administered to the control session. Participants and investigators were blinded to the saline solution. A 20-min TENS or placebo treatment was administered, which was blinded to participants. Gait kinematic data were collected using the high-speed video (240 Hz) and force-sending tandem treadmill (1200 Hz) at each time interval (baseline, infusion, treatment, post-treatment). Functional ANOVA (α=0.05) were used to evaluate difference between 2 groups (TENS, placebo) over time. Pairwise comparison functions with 95% confidence interval were plotted to determine specific difference. Hypertonic saline infusion (pain) resulted in increased (1) ankle dorsiflexion (38-75% of stance), (2) knee valgus (20-40%), (3) knee flexion (40-90%), (4) hip adduction (72-100%), (5) hip flexion (50-90%). However, there was no group x time interaction for all kinematics. Altered gait strategies due to pain may play a role in long-term compensation that could have consequences for the joint. TENS treatment, however, did not acutely reduce the deficits in aforementioned kinematic variables.

Listed In: Biomechanics, Gait, Neuroscience, Physical Therapy

Effects of postural stability on the transfer of learned movement control strategies

We investigated whether stability affects the learning and/or transfer of human postural control strategies. Subjects learned novel postural control strategies in a more stable standing configuration and then transferred to a less stable configuration, or vice versa. Initial learning was not affected by stability. However, transfer of learned control from one context to another was affected by the change in stability between contexts. These results suggest that in rehabilitation it is important to consider the context in which task learning occurs, as well as the context in which the task will be performed in the future.
Listed In: Biomechanical Engineering, Biomechanics, Neuroscience

Suprathreshold Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation as an analog of vestibular dysfunction

In the past we have shown that exposure to increasing amplitudes of Galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS) induces a corresponding increasing deficit in postural control, cognition and autonomic function. Previous studies have suggested that suprathreshold GVS induces a similar pattern of postural instability as the one observed on bilateral vestibular loss. The aim of the present study was to determine whether different current intensities would affect somatosensory, visual, and vestibular sensory system similarly to patient affected by vestibular deficits. We assessed postural control in unilateral (right and left) and bilateral vestibular loss patients, an aged matched healthy control group, and during pseudorandom binaural bipolar GVS in healthy subjects at one of three current amplitudes (1 mA, 3.5 mA, 5 mA). Balance was assessed with sensory organization test (SOT) that quantifies the effectiveness of vestibular, visual and somatosensory input to postural control. Results showed that GVS significantly affects vestibular control of posture compared to baseline at all current amplitudes, whereas somatosensory and visual performance was unaffected. Vestibular patients showed a significant decrease in vestibular and visual response compared to control. Suprathreshold GVS 5 mA showed a similar large effect size to unilateral and bilateral vestibular loss patients relative to their aged matched control. NASA NCC 9-58 and NNX09AL14G

Listed In: Biomechanical Engineering, Neuroscience, Posturography