Director Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences
Member, Executive Committee Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute
My research explores the neural basis of sensorimotor control and learning. Our experiments involve neurologically healthy and impaired individuals, use behavioral and neuroimaging methods to characterize the functional role of different parts of the motor pathways. For example, we have hypothesized that a primary role for the cerebellum is to regulate the temporal aspects of movement. Moreover, the cerebellum also appears to be involved in perceptual tasks that require precise timing. We are currently exploring how the brain may represent temporal information at a mechanistic level. We hypothesize that the cerebellum may be conceptualized as a network of interval-based timing elements, with these elements tuned to specific intervals that are task-specific.
This decade has seen a great deal of interest in higher-level functions of the cerebellum, inspired by various results in the neuroimaging literature as well as intriguing findings that this structure is abnormal in autistic individuals. Functional hypotheses include the idea that this structure is essential for attention shifting, internal speech, and/or preparation of response alternatives. We are testing these hypotheses in our patient population.
Another primary area of research involves the study of motor learning. We have conducted behavioral and neuroimaging studies comparing explicit and implicit motor sequence learning. This work suggests separable psychological and neural systems associated with these two forms of motor learning. Our current work is designed to clarify differences between the systems in terms of how they represent learned association.
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