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Research on the science behind limb coordination may help victims of stroke, limb loss

June 17th, 2024 Eddy Duryea
UCF researcher studies science behind limb coordination to help stroke patients
A cap used to monitor neural activity and a robotic appendage will be used in Qiushi Fu’s bimanual coordination research. Credit: Antoine Hart

Many everyday tasks require the use of two limbs. But when people experience a debilitating medical condition such as a stroke or loss of a limb, these same everyday tasks may become a struggle.

Qiushi Fu, a professor in UCF's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering within the College of Engineering and Computer Science, aims to alleviate such struggles with his new research on bimanual coordination that began in March.

Fu is observing how people interact with tasks that require coordinating two limbs, each controlling a robotic device, to complete a task within a virtual environment. The catch is that his task simulations will randomly impede his trial participants and lead them to decide how to compensate for the constraint placed upon one or more limbs.

However, there will be much more practical activities, too, Fu says.

"It's important to go beyond experimental tasks and have participants perform actual real-life tasks," he says. "We also want to measure coordination in everyday tasks like buttoning or cutting a piece of paper with motion tracking technologies."

Fu proposes that the knowledge gained in this project can provide significant insight to improve the effectiveness of motor rehabilitation interventions for restoring upper-limb function in individuals affected by neurological disorders.

"The objective of this is research is we want to understand how our brain controls our two hands to work on a task with a common goal," he says. "One example is you're pouring water from a bottle to a cup. So, imagine the hand holding the cup is being pushed by something. To successfully perform the task is to move the hand back or move the pouring hand, or both."

Video interview with researcher + B-roll.

The research will use healthy young participants to perform those activities while their brain activity is monitored to acquire a foundational understanding of bimanual coordination, Fu says.

"If one hand makes a mistake or is impaired then the other can help compensate," he says. "This is a decision the brain has to process, and we're studying how the brain achieves this."

Data will be gathered noninvasively, as participants will wear a fitted cap that will measure neural activity via electrodes. There also will be measurements of limb movements, muscle activities and eye movements to pair with the neural data.

Fu says he was motivated to investigate further when he noticed prior research on bimanual coordination primarily focused on tasks that require each limb to attain an independent goal rather than a common goal.

"None of these studies focused on how they complement each other," Fu says. "I found that this particular topic wasn't well understood, and in the past the research has focused on independent goal tasks, and our project focuses on common goal tasks."

Although Fu is the principal investigator, he is collaborating with other UCF faculty within the Disability, Aging and Technology Cluster to use their expertise in measuring brain activity for the research. He is also working with scientists at Arizona State University to apply neural stimulation to examine the functional role of a few different brain areas.

"We're hoping our research will provide biomarkers and baseline data to further investigate into patient populations to perform rehabilitation interventions and even regain motor control," Fu says.

Fu's research focuses on rehabilitation, prosthetics, sensorimotor control, and bioinspired robots. He also is part of UCF's Biionix Cluster of interdisciplinary researchers, which brings together medical scientists and engineers to study and enhance high-tech medical technologies.

Provided by University of Central Florida

Citation: Research on the science behind limb coordination may help victims of stroke, limb loss (2024, June 17) retrieved 14 July 2024 from
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