Centre for Motor Control

The ability to move accurately, efficiently, and safely is fundamental to the success and survival of people in any society in the world. For this reason, an in-depth understanding of the neural and cognitive mechanisms that lead to motor control, learning, and development is critical to a number of applied disciplines; including, but not limited to, health sciences, biomedical engineering, healthy high performance, computer sciences, and robotics. In the typical research model, scientists generating the basic science knowledge of the psychological and neurological substrates of motor behaviour are typically involved as adjunct members and consultants in the teams of scientists and engineers that are working towards specific applied goals (e.g., improving human-computer interfaces or rehabilitation protocols for stroke recovery). Although this approach has clearly worked at achieving their specific aims, it is our belief that the basic-to-applied scientific research process can benefit from a centralized hub dedicated to the common underlying issue – fundamental motor behaviour. That is, the typical structure in which the relatively independent research teams, potentially from different disciplines, work towards specific purposes may have some inherent limitations and inefficiencies attributable to limited communication between teams. An important upshot for a centralized unit focussing on the common issue of motor behaviour is that the unit can provide a common platform to facilitate knowledge transfer between these units and minimize redundancies in methods and findings. Further, researchers of motor behaviour with expertise in the methods of recording and analyzing movement are in relative short supply and can only commit to assisting a limited number of applied projects at a given moment of time.

Thus, the rationale for the Centre for Motor Control (CMC) is to foster greater efficiencies in knowledge generation and transfer by flipping the common approach and making fundamental research in motor behaviour the core of the unit with researchers in related units as members. It is envisioned that having fundamental motor behaviour as the core focus will help to overcome any current limitations by increasing the efficiency of the dissemination of methods and findings in fundamental aspects of motor behaviour to the related disciplines that utilize this knowledge. Further, by providing a common meeting place and platform for basic and applied scientists, the CMC will help facilitate the transfer of knowledge among the disciplines and the development of new collaborations and breakthroughs in science and engineering.

Vision

The vision for the CMC is for it to be an internationally recognized Center for Excellence in research and teaching in all disciplines related to motor behaviour. The CMC will reflect the multi-disciplinary nature of studies in motor behaviour by supporting and promoting research utilizing neuroscientific, behavioural, and biomechanical methodologies in both human and non-human animals. To this end, the CMC will serve as the hub for a network of researchers who focus on the fundamental and applied aspects of motor behaviour across the University of Toronto community and motor behaviour scientists from across Ontario.

Mission

The chief objective of the CMC is to be an internationally recognized leader in the generation and translation of fundamental research into all aspects of motor behaviour. This objective includes generating, disseminating, and promoting knowledge related to the execution of movement. The CMC will serve as a multidisciplinary hub for scientific, clinical, industrial and community groups. The anticipated benefits of the generated knowledge include the creation and/or design of optimal rehabilitative, learning, training and working conditions necessary to facilitate the performance of all members of our society. As such, the CMC will cover the entire spectrum of human movement: From patient populations to average individuals to elite athletes.

The specific goals of the CMC are:

  • To enable and facilitate excellence in fundamental scientific research that will increase our understanding of the cognitive and neural underpinnings of movement through neuroscientific and behavioural research in both human and non-human animals.
  • To promote the integration of research findings in behavioural and neural motor behaviour to facilitate translation into new technologies, treatments and training tools.
  • To provide a rich intellectual environment that enhances the educational experience for current and future scientists in motor behaviour and related disciplines.

Governance and Structure

The CMC has been established as a Level D, Extra-Departmental Unit (i.e., EDU:D) in accordance with the University of Toronto Guidelines for Administrative Functions and Protocols of Extra-Departmental Units. The CMC will begin as a virtual unit that is hosted within the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education. It is envisioned that, within the first three years, the CMC may grow to the level of an EDU:C unit. While the CMC is an EDU:D, a Coordinator will be appointed by the Dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education (FKPE). The Coordinator is responsible for the administrative and financial operations of the CMC, and will report to the FKPE Council and to the membership at the Annual General Meeting. The term of the Coordinator is 3 years and is renewable pending performance evaluation or strategic considerations. Dr. Tim Welsh will act as the inaugural Coordinator. Dr. Welsh can be reached via email: t.welsh@utoronto.ca.

At the end of the first three years, a comprehensive review of the CMC will take place to assess progress and shape future activities. Indicators and deliverables for review will include: principal investigator and student memberships, symposium development and attendance, course development and attendance, feedback from CMC events, and a survey of collaborative efforts facilitated via CMC networks.

Activities

The CMC will serve multiple purposes in addition to supporting fundamental motor behaviour research. These purposes include providing a shared technological platform and training environment. It is also envisioned that the CMC will be able to serve as research-to-industry and research-to-society vectors in the medium future.

To achieve its goals and purposes, the CMC will host various knowledge creation and translation activities. The CMC will first serve as a research platform for data collection purposes. Existing and new links between members would be enhanced and extended via this technological forum. In conjunction with providing a research platform, the CMC will also act as a funding hub, which can include large-scale research infrastructure, operation and training grant applications (e.g., CFI – Leading Edge Fund, CIHR-Team Grant, NSERC-CREATE).

Within the first year, a Symposium on Motor Control will be organized. In addition to sharing new knowledge among members about specific research findings, this symposium will also incorporate an interactive session with the general public for the purpose of broader knowledge translation as well as informing scientists of the emerging motor control needs of the public. The liaison officer will work with the Coordinator to help create the links between scientists within and outside the CMC (e.g., other EDUs). The liaison officer will also help establish links with industrial partners, sport organizations, social agencies, and government agencies. The symposium may also include a workshop for scientists, which will cover training on cutting-edge research methods, technologies, and analysis techniques. Over the course of the first three years, the CMC symposium will develop and promote emerging research-to-society and research-to-industry translation.

Current Members

Limor Avivi-Arber
Assistant Professor, Dentistry; Prosthodontics; Oral Physiology, University of Toronto
Keywords: orofacial, motor functions, pain, motor cortex, neuroplasticity
Brief Description of Interests: The study of orofacial sensory and motor functions using behavioural, electrophysiological, histological and brain imaging (MRI, optical) techniques in rodents

Tyson Beach
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto
Keywords: biomechanics; kinesiology; ergonomics; musculoskeletal health; injury prevention; motion analysis; strength and conditioning
Brief Description of Interests: An overarching aim of our research program is to devise tools and techniques to enhance and maintain the capacity of the musculoskeletal system to withstand physical demands of work and sport. Current research projects are focused on the development of sustainable exercise-based performance enhancement and injury prevention strategies for individuals who engage in non-modifiable, unpredictable, and physically demanding activities (e.g., athletes, firefighters, police officers, and military service personnel).
Website: Biomechanics & Sport Medicine Lab

Pamela Bryden
Professor, Kinesiology and Physical Education, Wilfrid Laurier University
Keywords: motor development, laterality, upper-limb, perception-action, developmental disabilities
Brief Description of Interests: My program of research is an attempt to understand lateral preference and performance first from a bottom-up perspective to determine the motor requirements for particular tasks, and secondly, from a top-down perspective of how the brain is lateralized for skilled movement. My research to date has attempted to answer why there is a preferred-hand advantage in motor tasks and how this advantage is related to hand preference, in order to understand handedness and manual asymmetries, as well as how the hemispheres are organized for motor control in complex, goal-directed movement.

Heather Carnahan
Professor, OS&OT, University of Toronto
Keywords: haptics; health professions education; learning; manual control; visual
Brief Description Interests: My research interests involve studying the role of sensory inputs such as touch and vision in the performance of skilled hand movements. I am interested in both issues related to motor learning, forgetting, and control. My clinical research involves applying current motor control and learning theory to studying the acquisition of technical clinical skills in the health professions.

Robert Chen
Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto
Keywords: transcranial magnetic stimulation; deep brain stimulation, brain plasticity, local field potentials, movement disorders, Parkinson's disease, dystonia, stroke, MRI
Brief Description of Interests: Our laboratory investigates the mechanisms of human motor control in healthy subjects, evaluates the pathophysiology and develops new treatment for patients with movement disorders and stroke. Research methods used include transcranial magnetic stimulation (single pulse, paired pulse and repetitive stimulation), MRI co-registration, deep brain stimulation, transcranial direct current stimulation, recording and detailed analysis local field potentials from the basal ganglia, movement-related cortical potentials and functional MRI.

Michael Cinelli
Assistant Professor, Kinesiology and Physical Education, Wilfrid Laurier University
Keywords: Locomotion, vision, perception action integration, dynamic balance control, life span development
Brief Description of Interests: My research is focused on the visual control of locomotion in avoiding collisions with objects within an environment. More recently I have been interested in determining whether differences in actions observed over the life span and with neurological pathologies are the result of perceptual differences. These perceptual changes may be affected by changes in dynamic stability. Collectively, these changes cause a disruption within the perception action integration cycle. My research has shown that both vision and stability affect action.

Digby Elliott
Professor Emeritus, Kinesiology, McMaster University
Keywords: motor control; vision; motor learning; movement planning; attention; movement pathology
Brief Description of Interests: My primary research area is the visual control of upper limb movement. I have also worked on issues related to manual asymmetry, visual selective attention, movement planning and motor learning. I am also interested in motor control and learning problems associated with various special populations including persons with Down syndrome, Williams syndrome and autism, as well as the breakdown of perceptual-motor function associated with normal aging.
Website: www.ljmu.ac.uk/sps/89701.htm

Reza Emami
Senior Lecturer, Aerospce Institute, University of Toronto
Keywords: robotics, mechatronics, intelligent control
Brief Description of Interests: The prime goal of my research is to develop systematic frameworks and modular, hierarchical architectures for the concurrent, detail-level engineering of robotic systems, from conception to configuration and integration, to realization and implementation.
Website: mechatronics.aerospace.utoronto.ca

Susanne Ferber
Associate, Psychology, University of Toronto
Keywords: attention; working memory; eye movements; spatial neglect
Brief Description of Interests: My research interests fall within the realm of Cognitive Neuroscience. The long-term goal of my research is to understand the cognitive and neural processes that support awareness of perception. As such, my work speaks to issues regarding the basic principles of the neural representation of visual perception and visually guided action. To examine the relationship between awareness and perception, my research program comprises diverse methodological approaches, such as the investigation of cognitive impairments in neurological patients (e.g., patients with spatial neglect or simultanagnosia), cognitive experiments in healthy individuals, and the examination of brain activity with modern neuroimaging techniques (fMRI and ERP).
Website: psych.utoronto.ca

Ryan Graham
Assistant Professor, Family Medicine/Program for Educational Research and Development, Nipissing University
Keywords: biomechanics; ergonomics; neuromuscular control; spine stability; low back pain
Brief Description of Interests: Dr. Graham’s current research focuses on the quantitative assessment of low back pain mechanisms and risk, with specific reference to spine (in)stability and impaired neuromuscular control.
Website: http://health.uottawa.ca/people/graham-ryan

Lawrence Grierson
Assistant Professor, Physical and Health Education, McMaster University
Keywords: Motor control; Motor learning; Vision; Haptics; Medical Education; Performance Assessment; Surgical Expertise
Brief Description of Interests: Dr. Grierson leads the McMaster Department of Family Medicine Medical Education Research Group, a group that examines issues relevant to family medicine education from a variety of theoretical perspectives and works to develop sustainable programs of research to address the questions associated with these issues. Dr. Grierson is also the Course Coordinator for the Research Methods and Skills Acquisition and Simulation-based Education courses offered in McMaster’s newly-developed Masters of Health Sciences in Health Professions Education program. Dr. Grierson maintains active research profiles in the fields of medical education, simulation-based education, assistive technologies and the control and acquisition of precision motor skill. He is a Certified Kinesiologist, as well as a member of the Canadian Association of Medical Educators and the Canadian Society for Psychomotor Learning and Psychology of Sport.

Stevie Hansen
Assistant Professor, Physical and Health Education, Nipissing University
Keywords: Visual Control; Upper Limb; Kinematics; Special Populations
Brief Description of Interests: Visual control of upper limb movements. Measurement and quantification of individual differences in the preparation and execution of movement. Kinematic analyses of the movements of individuals from typically developing and special populations. Theoretical modelling of movement control and movement rehabilitation.
Website: nipissingu.ca

Matthew Heath
Associate, Kinesiology/Neuroscience, University of Western Ontario
Keywords: action; grasping; perception; proprioception; reaching; oculomotor, saccades, vision
Brief Description of Interests: My research examines the behavioural properties and neural substracts associated with the planning and online control of goal-directed reaching/grasping and saccades. Techniques used include kinematic analyses, EEG and TMS.

James Lyons
Associate, Kinesiology, McMaster University
Keywords: Motor Behaviour; Motor Control; Human Factors
Brief Description of Interests: My research interests are many but include the visual regulation of goal directed movement, sensory-motor integration in the acquisition of complex skills, perceptual-motor behaviour in special populations and, more generally, Human Factors/Cognitive Ergonomics. These research foci derive primarily from an interest in several theoretical accounts of the ways in which we use environmental information to learn skills, plan movements and deal with various task constraints. Some recent examples of this work include studies designed to assess perceptual-motor constraints in medical education as well as collaborations on a research programme entitled Improving Automotive Manufacturing Design and Ergonomics through Work Simulation and Digital Human Modelling.

Paul Milgram
Professor, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, University of Toronto
Keywords: Human Factors, Engineering Psychology, Displays, Controls, Human-Machine Interfaces
Brief Description of Interests:
• navigation, manipulation and control in 3D environments
• human-machine interfaces for 3D mixed reality environments
• stereoscopic displays and computer graphics
• visual displays for telerobotic control
• human performance modelling
modelling of attentional workload
• human factors issues in medicine
Website: etclab.mie.utoronto.ca

George Mochizuki
Scientist/Assistant Professor, Brain Sciences Research, Sunnybrook Research Institute/University of Toronto
Keywords: balance; stroke; spasticity; electromyography; electroencephalography
Brief Description of Interests: Dr. Mochizuki’s research focuses on understanding the changes in motor control that occur after stroke. The overall approach employs sensitive measures of central and peripheral nervous system activity to complement behavioural measures to determine the extent to which stroke impacts everyday functional activities (like balance, mobility, or reaching). These tools are also used to determine the extent to which rehabilitation interventions enhance recovery.
Website: centreforstrokerecovery.ca

Jay Pratt
Acting Vice-Provost, Psychology, University of Toronto
Keywords: visual cognition; attention; eye movements; perception and action; aimed limb movements
Brief Description of Interests: My research falls in the domain of visual cognition. I am interested in how humans selectively acquire information from the visual field and how that information influences actions (and what happens to the ignored information). The research uses methods that involve measuring attention, eye movements, limb movements, and electrophysiological responses (EEGs/ERPs). A wide range of studies are conducted in the lab, including research on such topics as attention, inhibitory processes, consciousness, memory, motor control (eye and limb movements), perception, and aging.
Website: jaypratt.net

Eric Roy
Professor, Kinesiology, University of Waterloo
Keywords: visual cognition; attention; eye movements; perception and action; aimed limb movements
Brief Description of Interests: Dr. Roy’s research examines neurocognitive and neuromotor mechanisms underlying how movements are learned and controlled. His approach involves examining normal healthy young and older adults as well as those with neurologic disorders such as stroke, Alzheimer disease and traumatic brain injury. One line of research is concerned with manual asymmetries in performance and how these relate to hand preference. Another focus is on a disorder in tool use called apraxia. His more applied research builds upon his expertise as a Psychologist with a practice in clinical neuropsychology and involves studying the effects of concussion and traumatic brain injury.

Barry Sessle
Professor, Dentistry, University of Toronto
Keywords: electrophysiology;neural;;cortex; brainstem;animal models;odels;orofacial
Brief Description of Interests: Role and underlying mechanisms of the face sensorimotor cortex in the control of orofacial movements and related muscle activities. Neuroplasticity of the orofacial motor control system in relation to learning and to adaptive mechanisms associated with orofacial changes,eg pain, nerve injury, tooth loss, etc. Studies are carried out principally in animal models,with some correlated investigations in healthy humans or patients with orofacial sensorimotor disorders..Techniques used are primarily electrophysiological, supplemented with kinematic, neuroanatomical, immunohistochemical, optical imaging,and MRI approaches.

Luc Tremblay
Associate Professor, Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, University of Toronto
Keywords: multisensory; motor control; vision; proprioception; audition; online control; voluntary movement; real-time sensory manipulation
Brief Description of Interests: I am primarily interested in the use of multisensory cues during voluntary human behaviours. We employ real-time, movement-dependent sensory manipulations during voluntary movements to assess how vision and proprioception are used between movement onset and offset. The purpose of this research is to better understand human sensorimotor control and hopefully help improve the design of neuromotor rehabilitation protocols.
Website: individual.utoronto.ca

Tim Welsh
Associate Professor, Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, University of Toronto
Keywords: motor planning; motor control; action-centered attention; selective attention; transcranial magnetic stimulation; joint action; action observation
Brief Description of Interests: The objective of my research is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the cognitive and neural mechanisms that underlie the goal-directed actions of people from average and special populations such as Down syndrome, autism, and Parkinson’s disease. My research focuses on three major themes: 1) selective attention; 2) perception-action coupling in individual and social action contexts; and, 3) cerebral specialization of cognitive and motor processes. It is my hope that once a detailed knowledge of the processes underlying behaviour has been developed, the scientific and clinical communities can work together to create the optimal rehabilitative, learning, and working conditions necessary to facilitate the performance of all members of society.
Website: Action and Attention Lab

Le Ada
Ph.D Candidate, Psychology, University of Toronto
Keywords: grasping; bimanual coordination; TMS; EEG; bimanual grasping
Brief Description of Interests: To grasp an object using one hand, humans can use the thumb or palm in opposition to one or more fingers. However, the mechanisms underlying grasping with two hands, that is when one hand opposes the other, are not well understood. The goal of my research is to examine bimanual grasping from a visual input level to a motor output level, and the neural processes in between. To this end, I use motion tracking, eye tracking, electroencephalography, and transcranial magnetic stimulation. In the near future, I hope to also use fMRI to explore possible brain areas involved in bimanual grasping/coordination.

Robin Cash
Postdoctoral Fellow, TWRI, University of Toronto
Keywords: Brain Stimulation, Neurophysiology, Plasticity
Brief Description of Interests: Brain Stimulation, Neurophysiology, Plasticity

Daniel Cheung

Graduate Student, Graduate Department of Rehabilitation Science, University of Toronto
Keywords: Motor Control, Transcranial magnetic stimulation, EEG, motor preparation
Brief Description of Interests: As of 2013, I am in the second year of my Master of Science degree under the supervision of Dr. George Mochizuki. My research interests include motor control, motor preparation and transcranial magnetic stimulation. My Master’s thesis project is entitled “Dissociating central set and motor preparation using transcranial magnetic stimulation”.

Jye-Chang Lee
Research Associate, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Toronto
Keywords: neuroplasticity; orofacial motor; intracortical microstimulatin; behavior task training; EMG; LabVIEW; Spike2
Brief Description of Interests: My research interests are the mechanisms of oral motor adaptation associated with the oral environment changes, eg. teeth loss, occlusion changes, and nerve injury. I have developed customized experimental apparatus and software for behavior task training, data acquisition, and data analysis on LabVIEW and Spike2.

Connor Reid
Masters' Student, Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, University of Toronto
Keywords: Action-effect coupling, TMS, ideomotor
Brief Description of Interests: It is known that perception and action are two interdependent processes which are cognitively represented in a functionally similar way to one another. Such research suggests that if a certain action A has been learned to be associated with an action effect B, the perception of action effect B prior to the execution of action A increases the speed and probability of action A. I am interested in the neurophysiological basis of this relationship, and whether the presentation of an after-effect elicits a higher TMS-induced motor evoked potential.

Kaviraja Udupa
Post-doctoral research fellow, Neurology/Medicine, University of Toronto
Keywords: Motor cortical plasticity; movement disorders; motor cortical circuits; motor control; autonomic regulation; depression; yoga
Brief Description of Events: I am currently working on motor cortical circuits and plasticity in healthy and patients with movement disorders using transcranial magnetic stimulation. I would like to explore the cross talk between cortical (M1) and subcortical (basal ganglia) structures in providing motor control in healthy and alteration of such a contol in patients with movement disorders. Further understanding the mechanisms of deep brain stimulation and design effective therapies for movement disorders are my goals.

Membership Information

The goal of the CMC is to be an open, welcoming, and integrated environment for scientific endeavours related to motor behaviour. To achieve this aim, a network of researchers that is deep in fundamental issues and diverse in applied aspects of motor behaviour will be developed. Consistent with the interdisciplinary nature of the CMC and its aim of diversity, applications for membership will be considered from any researcher within the University of Toronto community who has a demonstrated interest in fundamental or applied issues related to motor control. To enhance the core depth in fundamental aspects of motor control, applications for membership will also be considered from researchers employed in kinesiology or similar academic units at collaborating institutions from across Ontario who have a demonstrated interest in basic science issues related to motor control. Researchers using utilizing neuroscientific and behavioural methodologies in human and/or non-human animals are encouraged to seek membership in the CMC.

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Centre for Motor Control, please read the information below and complete the application process. Details on the application process can be found online here.

Members are individuals who assist the CMC in fulfilling its mission through participation in research, education, practice, or public engagement activities in areas related to motor control.

There are three categories of membership:

Full Member

  • An individual who holds a current academic or clinical appointment in good standing at an Ontario university (e.g., assistant, associate, full, or emeritus professor or research chair).
  • Demonstrated track record of research in areas related to motor control.

Associate Member

  • A current graduate student who is currently supervised by a Full Member.
  • Research scientist or postdoctoral fellow who is based in Ontario and is currently conducting research in areas related to motor control.

Affiliate Member

  • An individual who does not meet the criteria for the other membership categories, but is engaged in professional activities related to motor control.

The benefits of membership in the CMC include:

  • Participation in the research meeting at a reduced cost
  • Participation in engagement, networking and continuing educational activities
  • Opportunities to apply for awards, scholarships, and travels grants
  • Access to network of research infrastructure

It is expected that Members will:

  • Contribute to the success of the CMC through activities such as:
  • Participation in the annual symposium and/or lecture series
  • Participation in the research database
  • Recognize the CMC during dissemination activities when the CMC facilitated the project

The term of the membership is 3 years and is renewable. During the 3rd year of the term, members will receive a notice that informs them that their membership term is about to end and outlines the process by which they can seek to renew their membership.

 

KPE Faculty

  • Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream
  • Professor
  • Associate Professor
  • Associate Dean - Research