Tara Najafi

The impact of subcortical lesions on motor adaptation to different error sizes

Motor adaptation comprises the essential processes which allow us to adapt to new environmental demands. Recent work has shown that motor adaptation includes both an explicit and implicit learning component. Explicit learning is strategic and utilizes performance errors, while implicit learning is unconscious and driven by motor execution errors. The cerebellum is central to generating these error signals, as has been shown extensively through the impaired adaptation of patients with cerebellar degeneration when completing visuomotor perturbation tasks. However, findings regarding the function of the cerebellum in implicit adaptation to varying error sizes remains unclear, as paradigms using larger error sizes are often confounded with explicit strategy. The role of the basal ganglia is further ambiguous, as a consensus has not yet been reached regarding its involvement in implicit adaptation. Through the use of the “clamped feedback” method, my project will isolate implicit adaptation, such that I will be able to evaluate how patients with lesions to the cerebellum and basal ganglia adapt to errors of various sizes compared to their neurotypical age-matched counterparts.

Message to Sponsor

I greatly appreciate the opportunity to work on my research this summer. Your support will allow me to critically engage with my project, and to further develop my research skills. Through this project, I hope to better understand how these subcortical structures contribute to learning, as this could potentially improve rehabilitation for individuals with motor deficits resulting from cerebellar or basal ganglia pathology.
  • Major: Molecular and Cell Biology: Neurobiology
  • Sponsor: Pergo Fund
  • Mentor: Richard Ivry