LSU Biomedical Collaborative Research Program Spurs Interdisciplinary Innovation

LSU Biomedical Collaborative Research Program 2018 symposium at LSU Health Sciences Center - New Orleans

Ten interdisciplinary research teams presented at the LSU Biomedical Collaborative Research Program symposium at the LSU Health Sciences Center - New Orleans this month.  Photo Credit: LSU.

BATON ROUGE – LSU School of Kinesiology Associate Professor Arend Van Gemmert is an expert in how a person learns a motor skill with one hand and then performs the same skill with the other hand. This process is called bilateral transfer of learning. However, he needed a brain imaging expert to understand how the brain enables bilateral transfer of learning. He teamed up with Owen Carmichael, associate professor and director of biomedical imaging at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center on a project funded by the LSU Biomedical Collaborative Research Program, or LBCRP.

Their study took a first step toward understanding how and why some older adults are better than others at learning new motor skills.

“This paradigm is important when injury or disease reduces the capabilities of one hand. The rationale is that we can start training earlier with the non-affected hand which will benefit eventual rehabilitation of the affected hand,” Van Gemmert said.

One key result from the study is that the brain conducts motor skill learning quite differently depending on whether learning was done by the dominant or non-dominant hand.

“The parts of the brain that controls vision, movement and movement planning all have different kinds of activity in the two cases,” said Krystal Kirby, a graduate student in the LSU and Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center’s Medical Physics program, who led much of the study activities.

These findings can be applied in the healthcare setting to assist physical therapists and occupational therapists who are helping older adults learn or re-learn the movements they need to make in order to dress, groom and perform other daily activities. Successfully learning these motor skills after a stroke or another medical event helps older adults to live independently.

“Ultimately we aim to develop new motor skill learning techniques that could be successful in those individuals whose brains have not responded to more traditional rehabilitation approaches,” Carmichael said.

This research team is one of the 10 interdisciplinary teams that presented at the LBCRP annual symposium held at the LSU Health Sciences Center-New Orleans earlier this month.

“It was wonderful to listen to physicians working together with kinesiologists, social scientists, engineers, physicists and chemists from LSU, LSU Health Sciences Center-New Orleans and Pennington Biomedical Research Center on various highly innovative projects,” said K. Gus Kousoulas, associate vice president of research and economic development at LSU, who co-facilitates LBCRP with LSU Health Sciences Center-New Orleans Associate Dean for Research Wayne L. Backes.

The LBCRP aims to promote interdisciplinary and other team approaches to biomedical, bioengineering, comparative medicine, bioinformatics and translational medicine research.


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Contact Alison Satake
LSU Media Relations