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 have figured out ways to connect them with their corresponding classes of mental processes.
All motions, intended and automatic alike, are inherently variable. Regardless of their functionality, no 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 his/her mental predispositions. Along a broad spectrum, some people are more rational while others are more intuitive about their acts. In the controlled setting 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 nervous system signal to induce plastic changes in the central control of actions. In particular, we are successfully applying these principles to Autism Spectrum Disorders. We seek to use the peripheral nervous systems as a proxy to unlock the volitional control of movements to bridge random actions to ones of intention and purpose. This way, we can unravel the learning potential of these individuals and gain access to their hidden inner strengths. Through the Peripheral Nervous System, we boost the connection with the Central Nervous System: we begin to help the brain heal itself.
Our subjects include children with developmental differences from their normally developing peers, adults who have suffered brain injuries or have motor degenerative diseases, and typically developing 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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