Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Medical Sciences Interdepartmental Area
Max J. Kurz, Ph.D.
One main purpose of this dissertation was to explore how sensorimotor cortical oscillations changed after practicing a novel ankle plantarflexion target matching task. We behaviorally quantified the speed, accuracy, reaction time, velocity, and variability of the participant’s performance of the task, while collecting their neurophysiological responses with magnetoencephalography (MEG). With these data, we assessed how the motor planning and execution stages of movement during a goal directed target matching task changed after practicing a task in typically developing young adults with their non-dominant ankle. We found that the cortical oscillations in the beta frequency range that were sourced from the sensorimotor and occipital cortices were weaker after practice. These individuals also improved behaviorally, with faster speed, greater accuracy, higher velocity, and less variability. The decreased strength likely reflects a more refined motor plan, a reduction in neural resources needed to perform the task, and/or an enhancement of the processes that are involved in the visuomotor transformations that occur prior to the onset of the motor action.
The second purpose was to explore how the changes of the sensorimotor cortical oscillations after practicing a novel ankle plantarflexion target matching task differ between adults and adolescents. We assessed these behavioral and neurophysiological changes in a cohort of typically developed adults and adolescents. After practice, all of the participants matched more targets, matched the targets faster, had improved accuracy, faster reaction times, and faster force production. However, the motor performance of the adults exceeded what was seen in the adolescents regardless of practice. In conjunction with the behavioral results, the strength of the beta ERD across the motor planning and execution stages was reduced after practice in the sensorimotor cortices of the adolescents, but was stronger in the adults. These outcomes suggest that there are age-dependent changes in the sensorimotor cortical oscillations after practice, which might be related to familiarity with the motor task.
The third purpose was to explore how movement attenuates the somatosensory cortical oscillations and how this attenuation differs in adults and adolescents. We used MEG to address this knowledge gap by applying an electrical stimulation to the tibial nerve as adolescents and adults produced an isometric ankle plantarflexion force, or sat quietly with no motor activity. We found movement-related attenuation of the somatosensory oscillations. Attenuation of the alpha-beta ERS while producing the isometric force was greater in adolescents when compared with adults, while the adults had a greater attenuation of the beta ERD. These results imply that alterations of frequency specific somatosensory cortical oscillations may partly underlie the altered motor performance characteristics seen in adolescents.
Gehringer, James E., "The neurophysiological changes associated with motor learning in adults and adolescents" (2019). Theses & Dissertations. 351.
Available for download on Wednesday, April 21, 2021