Parkinson's Disease Projects

Reach to Grasp Project

We are investigating the effects of priming on the co-articulation of the arm joints in patients with Parkinson's disease as they are instructed to speed up or to slow down their hand reaching movements.

Previous computational modelling of reach-to-grasp predicted co-articulation of the arm joints that was confirmed in normal adults (Torres and Zipser 2002, 2004). Then using the computational tools in collaboration with Howard Poizner at UCSD and Ken Heilman at the University of Florida we recently showed that the balance between voluntary and automatic modes of control is severely affected in patients with PD (J. of Neuroscience 2011). The patient data provided evidence for the proposed idea that impairments in automatic control impede the expression of voluntary control (Redgrave et al 2010, Nature Neuroscience). The present project further explores these issues when the cognitive load of the reach-to-grasp task increases -as when a mental rotation of the target object is required in order to match its orientation and the orientation of the hand (with priming). We are making considerable progress in this project thanks to the analytical and computational efforts of Polina Janovich from Computer Science and to the coordination and experimental efforts of Dr. Rob Isenhower and Caesar Dommar from the Psychology Department.

Assisting us with the assessment of the patients is the Movement Disorders specialist and Neurologist Dr. Jacob Sage from Robert Wood Johnson, a world expert on Parkinson's Disease.

YouTube Video

These movies and screen shots were obtained from the output of 

The MotionMonitor, by Innovative Sports Training, Inc 

 Motor Overflow with Increments in the Cognitive Load

This is a collaborative effort with Physics Prof. Jorge V. Jose and Kinesiology Assistant Prof. S.Lee Hong from Indiana University. This project looks at the inter-limb transfer of tremor (between the resting limb and the moving limb) as the cognitive load increases during seemingly simple reach-to-grasp actions. We have found that even in a normally aging individual (depicted in the figure) with essential tremor, there is a significant increase in tremor patterns in the resting hand when the cognitive load of the task increases. Here we further investigate to what extent this effect manifests in the movements of patients with Parkinson's Disease and whether (if present) the effect depends in the stage of the disease. In addition to the efforts of Prof. Jose and Assistant Prof. Hong, this project involves the efforts of IGERT Fellow Polina Janovich from Computer Science and the Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Isenhower from Psychology.

 Effects of Bike Exercise on Movement Coordination in Parkinson's Disease

This project assesses the coordination patterns of the head, trunk, upper and lower body extremities in normally aging subjects and compares them with patients who suffer from Parkinson's disease. We aim at evaluating patterns of coordination before and after bike training to ask if measurable improvements are observed and to classify patients based on the rate of improvement of various movement parameters.

This project will examine the timing and patterns of synchronization across patient types who are first classified according to changes in the personal signatures of motor variability that the increases in the cognitive load of the task may produce.

As in the other projects here we assess the crossroads between cognition and movement.

Testing the Use of a Smart Bike in Parkinson's Disease

This project is in collaboration with Dr. Jingang Yi, Assistant Professor from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace at Rutgers University who is developing a smart bike to help patients of various movement disorders exercise in the outdoors.

Here is the bike platform and model form Dr. Yi which we will use to precisely measure various aspects of assisted bike riding in patients with Parkinson's disease. In particular my lab is interested in potential benefits from assisted bike exercise and potential transfers of benefits to the movement coordination in the joints of upper body extremities. These are important for performing instrumental activities of daily living ranging from eating and drinking to perusing through a book or folding the laundry.


Here is the ad in the bulletin from the

 Robert Wood Johnson PD support group

Many thanks to all the patients that have come to us and are participating in the study.