Lab News

Frontiers of Numan NeuroscienceUnderstanding focal dystonia in musicians

Musician’s dystonia (MD) is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary contractions of those muscles involved in the play of a musical instrument. It is task-specific and initially only impairs the voluntary control of highly practiced musical motor skills. MD can lead to a severe decrement in a musician’s ability to perform. While the etiology and the neurological pathomechanism of the disease remain unknown, it is known that MD like others forms of focal dystonia is associated with somatosensory deficits, specifically a decreased precision of tactile and proprioceptive perception. With the Italian neurologist Giovanni Abbruzzese at the University of Genoa, Italy we investigated the link between the somatosensory deficits and the overt dystonic movements in musicians with focal dystonia. For a direct link to the article click here:


Neurology JournalPrevalence of pediatric cerebellar ataxia estimated

Jürgen Konczak, director of the Human Sensorimotor Control Laboratory, is coauthor on a recent systematic review that estimated the worldwide proportion of childhood ataxia (i.e. its prevalence). The prevalence of genetic and acquired childhood ataxias in Europe, the continent with the most reports, was estimated to be ~26/100000 children, and likely reflects a minimum prevalence worldwide. The report resulted from a collaboration of with colleagues at Johns Hopkins University, the University of Iowa and Canada and will be published in the journal Neurology.


Movement DisordersDeep brain stimulation in Parkinson's disease improves haptic perception

Haptic perception relates to one's ability to perceive properties of objects through active touch. For example, one perceives the roundess of a cylinder while moving the hand around it. In everyday life, we use vision and haptics to find things out about the objects that we manipulate. In a new study we investigated to what extent haptic perception becomes impaired in Parkinson's disease(PD) and whether deep brain stimulation (DBS) can restore haptic precision in PD patients. A main finding of the study is that haptic acuity degrades in PD, but that DBS partially restores the precision of haptic sensing. That is, DBS has a beneficial effect on haptic perception. The results will be published in the journal Movement Disorders. Joshua Aman, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab is the lead author of the publication.


Passive motion apparatusRecruiting participants with voice disorders

As part of a project funded by the National Institutes of Health we are currently recruiting participants with two voice disorders: spasmodic dysphonia and muscle tension dysphonia. This project examines their body awareness, specifically the ability of patients to sense the position of their arm in space. We use a specialized equipment, a passive motion apparatus, that very slowly rotates the forearm (see the photo to your right). This is a non-invasive study. If you are interested, please contact Dr. Joshua Aman at 612-625-3313 or email him at

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Last modified in August, 2011