Under the direction of Professor Jürgen Konczak, the main research goal of the HSCL is to understand how the human brain controls movement. To do this, the lab focuses on both the development and changing of motor function across the lifespan, as well as the etiology and mechanisms of neurological disease that affect the motor system. In the past, much of the lab’s work has centered around the development of proprioceptive and motor function in infants and children and how these functions change over time. The other focus of the lab is centered around how these proprioceptive and motor functions are altered in patients with neurological disease, specifically those with dysfunctions of the cerebellum and basal ganglia.
In order to accomplish this, a wide variety of techniques are used to quantify proprioceptive and motor function, including neuropsychological, psychophysical, electrophysiological, and biomechanical recordings, as well as system modeling (neural networks) and brain imaging techniques.
“Results of our studies provide knowledge about the state of “normal” motor development and function as you age,” said Konczak. “These studies also provide clinic relevance to practitioners about the motor deficits of disease and the impact of current treatments on motor and proprioceptive function as well as contribute to the current knowledge about the etiology of these disorders.”
The HSCL is a state-of-the-art facility of approximately 180 square meters (2000 square ft) of total space housing two large laboratory rooms, a movement physiology lab space that is mostly devoted to the analysis of arm and hand function, and the motion capture lab which is equipped to study gait and posture. The movement physiology lab space includes a portable three-camera motion capture system, a motor driven passive motion apparatus used to investigate the motion or position sense of the forearm (i.e., how precise does someone perceive forearm motion or a change in its position) and a bimanual arm apparatus used for measuring passive and active forearm motion and position sense. An eight-channel vibration system is available to alter sensory feedback of the muscle and tendons, as well as a 12-channel biopack system used to record grip force, joint angles, and muscle activity. The space also includes an eye tracker system that allows for the precise recordings of eye movements.
The motion capture lab space includes a 12-camera motion capture system with an embedded force platform to record human motion. The setup is suited to assess gait, standing balance and all forms of free, whole-body motion within a 8 x 3m (24 x 9ft) space. A wireless 8-channel electromyographic recording system (EMG) is available to obtain data of the underlying muscle activation patterns during motion.