Here's what's going on within CEREBBRAL Labs

Walking and obstacle research

The Motor Behavior Group in Health and Kinesiology

Dr. Rietdyk's research focus is the interaction of the neural and mechanical systems in mobility, posture and balance.  In particular, how the nervous system integrates the visual and sensory information and coordinates the muscle activity to develop safe, balanced and skillful movement.  The mechanical system is very unstable with a high center of mass, a base of support, and three joints in the support limbs.  Yet, we move about and interact with the enviroment with little conscious thought.  Disease or aging may lead to delays and degenerations in the balance system.  Can we provide interventions which maintain mobility and quality of life for these individuals?

Dr. Haddad's research explores changes in postural stability, manual control, and locomotion that occurs as a function of age, development, and disease.  Dr. Haddad is currently investigating decline that occurs in the integration between posture and other supra-postural behaviors in aged populations.  This research is specifically examining ways to improve balance (reduce fall risk) in older individuals and individuals with Parkinson's disease as they perform typical daily standing multi-task activites such as talking while producing precision hand movements.

Dr. Ambike's research interest is in studying movement in biological systems and in robots.  Dr. Ambike is currently interested in (1) understanding dexterity, (2) obstacle crossing, and (3) precision vs variability in manual behavior.

  1. Understanding Dexterity.  Behavior Dexterity is the judicious utilization of strength, finesse, coordination and swift changes in pre-conceived motion plans to achieve challenging motor tasks.  dexterity is aquired last during early development, and it is the first to be compromised with aging.  We are investigating the effect of age on the ability to modulate the performance of a specific manual task which is embedded in the context of longer tasks with varying complexity.
  2. Obstacle Crossing.  Falls in older adults are a major health concern.  Previous work from our lab has shown that during obstacle crossing, the clearance between the toe of the lagging foot and the obstacle diminishes systematically over repeated trials, and often leads to contact - a trip (see Dr. Rietdyk's work).  We are examining the source of this variability in toe clearance.  Full-body joint kinematics will be obtained with a Vicon system, and the variability structure in joint kinematics will be analyzed to locate the sources of the drift in toe clearance.
  3. Precision vs. Variability in Manual Behavior.  The characteristics of movement variability are often used as an indicator of health status.  For example, older adults and Parkinson's disease patients often display a shift from random (uncorrelated) or persistent variability in various motor tasks.  However, variability structure can also be influenced by the nature of the task.  We are investigating the changes in variability structure of fingertip forces in tasks with varying precision requirements and the degree of redundancy.

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Researcher in Dr. Foti's lab setting up an ERP equipment.


Dr. Foti's current research is mapping neural measures of reward sensitivity and emotional reactivity to a wide range of psychopathology symptoms.  Dr. Foti's lab is specifically contrasting neural sensitivity to monetary reward versus other types of reward, as well as reactivity across reward stages (i.e., pursuit verses attainment).  With regard to emotional reactivity, we are disentangling reactivity to appetitive verses aversive stimuli, as well as dynamic fluctuations in reactivity over time.  They expect that these neural measures will exhibit highly specific relationship with symptom sub-dimemsions within the internalizing spectrum.

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Brain activation gradually moves towards the motor areas with extensive training in a task.

Laboratory for Computational Cognitive Neuroscience

Dr. Helie's research uses different methodologies from cognitive psychology, neuroimaging, and computational modeling to study the relation between the brain and cognitive processing.  The goal of the Purdue Laboratory for Computational Cognitive Neuroscience is to use empirical and computational methods to better understand:

  • Basal Ganglia
  • Categorization
  • Automaticity
  • Rule learning
  • Sequence learning
  • Skill acquisition
  • Decision-making
  • Knowledge representation

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Parkinson's patient wearing SpeechVive device.

Motor Speech Lab

Dr. Huber's research interests cover a wide range of topics related to quality of life for older adults and individual's with Parkinson's disease.

  • SpeechVive Efficacy Studies.  We are testing the effectiveness of the SpeechVive, a small wearable device.  Often it is difficult for people with Parkinson's disease to remember to use speech therapy techniques during everyday communication environments.  The SpeechVive plays noise in one of the wearer's ears while he or she is talking.  The noise elicits an automatic reflex to talk louder, at more normal rate, and with improved clarity.  The device can be worn throughout the day so that people with Parkinson's disease can obtain better communication effectiveness in their everyday lives.
  • Walking and Balance Training Studies.  The goal of these studies are to examine how effective a variety of training paradigms are for improving balance and walking in older adults with and without Parkinson's disease.  Common daily tasks (like walking and talking) are typically multi-task in nature and more complex than they appear.  Resent evidence suggests that falls occur more often during these common daily activities.  Despite this, the efficacy of most training studies have been established using standardized balance scales or single measures rather than complex tasks which mimic those performed in daily life.  To fostor independence and quality of life, it is critical to establish the effectiveness of training paradigms for improving activities that are commonly encountered in everyday life.
  • Medical and Surgical Treatment of Parkinson's Disease:  Effects on Communication and Cognition.  

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Susan Sangha, Ph.D.

Sangha Lab

Dr Sangha's research uses in vivo single unit recordings and pharmacogenetics in freely behaving rats to map out the neural circuitry of fear-safety-reward cue discrimination.

Some specific projects include:

  1. Role of the prefrontal cortex in cue discrimination:  Single unit recordings in the prefrontal cortex are being obtained as rats learn to discriminate among fear, safety and reward cues.  In addition, inhibitory DREADD receptors are being expressed in prefrontal neurons that project specifically to the amygdala.  This allows us to inhibit the PFC-> amygdala pathway during cue discrimination.  In the future we plan to pair inhibition of this pathway with single unit recordings in the amygdala to assess how neuronal activity in the amygdala is affected during inhibition of this cortical input.
  2. Role of dopamine signaling in cue discrimination:  We have shown that infusion of a D1 receptor agonist directly into the amygdala disrupts the rat's ability to discriminate between a fear and a safety cue, as evidenced by similar fear levels to both cues.  We are now expressing excitatory DREADD receptors in dopaminergic neurons of the ventral tegmental area that project to the amygdala to show the critical sources of the dopamine in this effect is orginating from the ventral tegmental area.  In the future, we plan to pair excitation of this dopaminergic pathway with single unit recordings in the amygdala to assess how neuronal activity in the amygdala is affected during increased dopaminergic activity.

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Purdue I-EaT Research Lab

I-EaT Research Lab

The Purdue I-EaT Swallowing Research Lab in the Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences Department is under the direction of Assistant Professor, Georgia A. Malandraki.

The lab is dedicated to high-level swallowing clinical research and to improving the health and quality of life of children and adults with swallowing disorders (also known as dysphasia).  The research conducted in the Purdue I-EaT Lab focuses on three main areas:  a)  the use of advanced imaging to understand the neural underpinnings of swallowing in the normal population and following trauma or intervention, b)  developing and evaluating new intensive neurorehabilitation paradigms and their effectiveness in neurogenic dysphasia, and c)  the development and application of telehealth systems to provide swallowing rehabilitation from a distance.

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Libby Richards, Ph.D.

Richards Lab

Dr. Richards' research is focused on population-based physical activity promotion.  Her research describes the individual, interpersonal, and environmental influences of physical activity.  Her methods include survey development, modeling associations, and intervention development and evaluation.  She has developed a walking intervention using a dog walking strategy and has assessed the health outcomes of this intervention.  She is currently collaborating with Drs. Melissa Franks and Meghan McDonough in implementing and assessing a dyadic goal-setting physical activity intervention in older adults.  In addition, she serves in several leadership positions in the field of public health, including as a Board member for the Indiana Public Health Association and as a member of the American Public Health Association Action Board.  She is one of seven individuals hired by Purdue University to promote research across disciplines in public health.

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Thomas Redick, Ph.D.

Redick Lab

The primary focus of Dr. Redick's research is working memory: understanding the causes and consequences of individual differences in working memory; investigating cognitive interventions to increase an individual's working memory, and related cognitive functions; and examining the measurement and psychometric properties of working memory tests.  An additional line of Dr. Redick's research program investigates the cognitive impact of concussions in athletics.

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