Several pathways and regions of the central nervous system could contribute to our response to external knocks to the body, but researchers only recently discovered that the pathway through the primary motor cortex provides this knowledge of the physics of the limb.
“To say this process is complex is an understatement,” says Stephen Scott, a neuroscience professor and motor behavior specialist in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences. “Voluntary movement is really, really hard in terms of the math involved. When I walk around, the equations of my motion are like a small book. The best physicists can’t solve these complicated equations, but your brain can do it incredibly quickly.”
The corrective movement pathway works by limiting and correcting the domino effect of involuntary bodily movement caused by an external blow. For example, a blow to the shoulder that causes the whole arm to swing about may require the brain to quickly turn on muscles in the shoulder, bicep, forearm and hand in order to regain control of the limb. Likewise, a football player who collides with an opponent during a game has to respond quickly to correct the movement and remain upright.
Strokes that take place in the primary motor cortex may cause varying levels of damage to this corrective movement pathway. This varying damage may explain why some stroke patients are able to improve their movement skills in rehabilitation and why some patients remain uncoordinated and unsteady.
Dr. Scott now wants to apply these findings to stroke patients by examining the damage these patients have to their sensory pathways and how this damage relates to movement problems. He believes that these findings may support an increased focus on first-stage sensory rehabilitation to help rebuild pathways that transmit sensory information to the brain before treatment moves to a focus on motor skills.
Other Queen’s researchers involved with this study are J. Andrew Pruszynski, Isaac Kurtzer, Joseph Nashed, Mohsen Omrani (Centre for Neuroscience Studies), and Brenda Brouwer (Centre for Neuroscience Studies and Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences).
This work was recently published in Nature, and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
Anne Craig | EurekAlert!
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The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
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The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
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Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
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The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
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