[Comp-neuro] PhD in motor learning & robotic assisted practise

Chris Miall r.c.miall at bham.ac.uk
Mon Feb 18 11:25:18 CET 2013

There is a PhD Studentship available to work on the effect of 
individualised motor practice on performance in older adults, funded by 
the MRC-ARUK Centre for Musculoskeletal Ageing Research.

*Where:* University of Birmingham, School of Psychology
*Supervisors:* Prof R.C. Miall &  Prof A Wing
*Application Deadline:* 08 March 2013
*Funding Notes:* The studentship provides a stipend at normal UK 
Research Council rates of £13,726 per annum and tuition fees for 4 
years. Please note - due to the MRC-ARUK funding, this studentship is 
available ONLY to UK citizens.

The elderly population show impairments in motor function due to muscle 
weakness, joint stiffness, and sensory loss. Exercise can postpone all 
these problems, but the nature of the best exercise regime and its 
optimal scheduling are unknown. Novel strength paradigms are of 
particular importance to the elderly. By analogy, robot-assisted 
rehabilitation is effective in stroke, but so far there have been only 
limited attempts to individualise the rehabilitation regimes.

The supervisory team have developed an algorithm to schedule practise to 
regions of each stroke patient's performance "landscape", in which 
participants make reaching actions with an assistive robotic device. 
Performance is mapped across the workspace and practise is given at 
regions where we expect maximal benefit. This project will extend this 
work to healthy older adults, with upper arm reaching movements made 
against a resistive load adapted to the individual requirements of the 
participant. The student will determine (i) the individual degree of 
sensory and motor loss prior to practice, by using the robotic arm to 
test both motor performance and perception of limb position and motion, 
(ii) how individualized practise is beneficial to everyday activity and 
to monitor difference between young healthy and older populations, (iii) 
how these practise-induced changes are reflected in functional 
activation of sensory-motor brain regions (using advanced imaging 
techniques), and in improved resistance to fatigue (iv) the effects of 
repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation to enhance motor learning 
and performance.

Applicants must have a background in neuroscience, motor control, 
robotics or related topics, and interest in working on quantification 
and assessment of human movement. Experience in testing human 
performance would be an advantage.

For informal enquiries please contact Prof Chris Miall 
(R.C.Miall at bham.ac.uk)
To apply please submit your CV together with a covering letter/e-mail.

*The MRC-ARUK Centre: *Musculoskeletal ageing is a complex process with 
loss of function resulting from tissue atrophy and remodelling within 
muscle, bone, tendon and cartilage compartments combined with reduced 
neuromuscular integrity. Held jointly by the University of Birmingham 
and University of Nottingham, the Centre's mission is to bring together 
first rate scientists, clinicians and industrial partners to improve 
understanding of age-related musculoskeletal deterioration, building a 
world-leading research platform capable of generating novel and 
clinically testable approaches to healthier musculoskeletal ageing. The 
Centre has the expertise, resource and facilities not only in terms of 
basic science research and a translational clinical pipeline to develop 
and deliver tailored approaches to combat age-related musculoskeletal 
decline, but also links to organisations influencing national policy 
helping to ensure adoption of its recommendations.

Professor R.C. Miall
Behavioural Brain Sciences            Tel +44 121 414 2867
School of Psychology,                 Fax +44 121 414 4897
University of Birmingham,             Mobile: 07709 586997
Edgbaston,                     Email: r.c.miall at bham.ac.uk
Birmingham B15 2TT UK         Web: http://prism.bham.ac.uk

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