CBB Profs Present...Professor Katja Mombaur discusses How Intelligent Human-Centred Robots Can Transform Health Care in the Future.
The efficacy of skilled practice in promoting beneficial brain reorganization to affect functional recovery has long been appreciated. However, current best practices to stroke rehabilitation are labour intensive and characterized by variable levels of functional recovery. In many cases, recovery of function in the stroke-affected limb is incomplete. Part of the variability in functional recovery across individuals may arise because of an incomplete understanding of the neural basis of learning. Learning, and by extension functional recovery, is not a singular process. They are comprised of separate abilities that operate on different time scales. One hypothesis is that excessive or compensatory reliance on conscious, declarative knowledge promotes quick, relatively transient, short-term increases in performance at the expense of sustained increases in procedural ability. However, the brain substrates by which declarative brain areas may shape procedural motor areas are unknown. We have recently used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a form of non-invasive brain stimulation, to identify two different brain circuits in motor cortex by which declarative strategies may shape procedural motor control. A preliminary study by our group also shows that one of these circuits is an important predictor of neuroplastic potential in motor cortex post-stroke. Continued work in this area is a critical step towards maximizing the benefits of current best practices by promoting optimal brain states that reduce variability in/increase the ceiling for skill acquisition in healthy and clinical populations.
Professor Katja Mombaur joined the University of Waterloo in March 2020 as Full Professor and Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) for Human-Centred Robotics & Machine Intelligence. Her research focuses on understanding human movement by a combined approach of model-based optimization and experiments and using this knowledge to improve motions of humanoid robots and the interactions of humans with exoskeletons, prostheses and external assistive devices. Her goal is to endow humanoid and wearable robots with motion intelligence that allow them to operate safely in a complex human world.
Prior to coming to Canada, Katja has been a full professor at the Institute of Computer Engineering of Heidelberg University and head of the Optimization, Robotics & Biomechanics Chair, as well as coordinator of the Heidelberg Center for Motion Research. She holds a diploma degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Stuttgart and a Ph.D. degree in Mathematics from Heidelberg University and has worked as a researcher at Seoul National University, and at LAAS-CNRS in Toulouse.
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