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In The News: URMC utilizes motion capture technology to study brain, how it ages

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The following is an excerpt from an article by Norma Holland that originally appeared on WHAM 13:

Rochester, N.Y. – From Hollywood to Healthcare: Technology used to make movies is being used at the University of Rochester Medical Center to help scientists understand the brain and how it ages.

What researchers learn could help predict a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

13WHAM watched researchers in the Mobile Brain Body Imaging – or MoBi – Lab attach wires to a cap covered in electrodes. The cap picks up the brain wave activity of a volunteer, while infrared cameras surrounding him pick up how his body moves on a treadmill.

This lab is one of 12 around the world combining motion capture technology with brain scans used in real time.

“What we’re saying is: Let’s get people up, let’s get them in a walking situation where they’re solving a task, where we can kind of stress them a bit, and then we can ask, ‘How’s the brain working under duress?’ explained Dr. John Foxe, director of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience. “And that gives us a window into function, maybe like a neural stress test, akin to the cardiac stress test.”

Armed with that information, doctors hope to one day be able to predict a person’s dementia risk a decade before symptoms show up. It can also help give us clues about a person’s risk of falling as they get older.

Read More: In The News: URMC utilizes motion capture technology to study brain, how it ages

How well can you walk, think at same time? URMC uses ability to predict Alzheimer's risk

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Neuroscientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center want to find out whether older adults who struggle to do both at once might be at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers recently started using motion capture technology — what’s used to get the realistic movements in sports video games — and recording brain activity to see at what point communication from the brain to the muscles breaks down. They want to know what that means for someone still trying to function in the everyday world.

 

The technology can be applied to autism, traumatic brain injury, concussion, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or Parkinson’s disease. Right now, the focus is Alzheimer’s, which is the sixth leading cause of death nationwide. According to a 2017 report from the state Department of Health, nearly 400,000 New Yorkers had Alzheimer's disease. The figure was expected to be 460,000 by 2025. There is no cure for the disease, but the goal of researchers is to predict who might be at risk so that treatments start earlier and slow the progression of Alzheimer's.

Researchers in the Ernest J. Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience are enrolling three groups of older adults — those who are healthy, those with cognitive impairment and those with Alzheimer’s — to determine whether they can predict someone’s risk of developing the disease. At some point, the technology could be used to track the effectiveness of treatment.

 

Moving targets

Most brain activity is measured when a person is still — either lying in an MRI tube or sitting in chair.

“That’s not what human beings do most of the time,” said John Foxe, director of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience. “We like to think that people will get up and move around, and of course that’s when people run into problems."

He gave the examples of someone with Alzheimer's who gets lost, a child with autism who has poor motor skills or a person who had a stroke and can't walk. "A lot of the things that happen to people because of brain dysfunction happen to them while they're walking around and trying to do stuff.”

He said researchers have been working on new ways to image and record brain activity to see where things go wrong, and what can be done about it. Hence, the brain stress test of walking and doing a mental task at the same time.

Foxe said the Cognitive Neurophysiology Lab of the Del Monte Institute is one of few labs in the world using mobile brain/body imaging, called MoBI. The lab receives funding from the National Institutes of Health, and the technology is open source, meaning URMC researchers will share it with scientists elsewhere.

Over the past 10 years, URMC has been involved in 86 research projects into understanding, diagnosing and treating Alzheimer's, according to the university. Total funding for the projects exceeded $33 million.

Two things at once

Current MSTP (MD/PhD) student, David Richardson, who works with study volunteers, cited scientific literature when he said people with Alzheimer’s can struggle with doing a physical and cognitive task at the same time.

“What happens if you ask somebody with Alzheimer’s to walk and talk?” said Richardson, a medical student and doctoral candidate in the medical scientist training program. “If they want to talk, they stop walking. If they want to walk, they stop talking.”

They may do it subconsciously as a way to keep their focus on one task at a time. By asking study participants to do simultaneous physical and mental tasks, the researchers are looking for clues about what happens when a person perceives one of the tasks as difficult.

Read More: How well can you walk, think at same time? URMC uses ability to predict Alzheimer's risk

Researchers Harness Virtual Reality, Motion Capture to Study Neurological Disorders

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Neuroscientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) have a powerful new state-of-the-art tool at their disposal to study diseases like Autism, Alzheimer’s, and traumatic brain injury. The Mobile Brain/Body Imaging system, or MoBI, combines virtual reality, brain monitoring, and Hollywood-inspired motion capture technology, enabling researchers to study the movement difficulties that often accompany neurological disorders and why our brains sometimes struggle while multitasking.

“Many studies of brain activity occur in controlled environments where study subjects are sitting in a sound proof room staring at a computer screen,” said John Foxe, Ph.D., director of the URMC Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience. “The MoBI system allows us to get people walking, using their senses, and solving the types of tasks you face every day, all the while measuring brain activity and tracking how the processes associated with cognition and movement interact.”

The MoBI platform – which is located in the Del Monte Institute’s Cognitive Neurophysiology Lab – brings together several high tech systems. Using the same technology that is employed by movie studios to produce CGI special effects, study participants wear a black body suite that is fitted with reflective markers. Participants are then asked to walk on a treadmill or manipulate objects at a table in a room fitted out with 16 high speed cameras that record the position of the markers with millimeter precision. This data is mapped to a computer generated 3D model that tracks movement.

Read More: Researchers Harness Virtual Reality, Motion Capture to Study Neurological Disorders

Neuroscience Lab Holds ‘Brain Day’ at Local School

Monday, April 30, 2018

 Last Friday, staff from the Del Monte Neuroscience Institute’s Cognitive Neurophysiology Laboratory (CNL) spent the afternoon at the Hope Hall School explaining the mysteries of the human brain and exposing students to careers in STEM fields.

The Hope Hall School, located in Gates, serves students with special learning needs in grades 2 through 12 from school districts across the greater Rochester area. Similar events at other schools in the area are being planned by the CNL staff.

Read More: Neuroscience Lab Holds ‘Brain Day’ at Local School

Neuroscience Graduate Student Kathryn-Mary Wakim one of Eight Finalists in the Three Minute Thesis Competition

Friday, April 6, 2018

Communicating research with three minutes and a slide

At a time when it is more important than ever for scientists to communicate clearly with the public, eight University PhD students and postdocs will do their best to summarize their research with just three minutes and a slide.

They are finalists in the University’s annual Three Minute Thesis competition, which will be held at 4 p.m., next Thursday, April 12, in the Class of ’62 Auditorium at the Medical Center.

A total of 44 students initially entered the competition, which was founded at University of Queensland, and is now in its third year at Rochester. The eight finalists are:

  • Jillian Ramos (biology)
  • Derek Crowe (genetics, development, and stem cells)
  • Parker Riley (computer science)
  • Robert Maynard (cellular biology of disease)
  • Marian Ackun-Farmmer (biomedical engineering)
  • Lauren VanGelder (chemistry)
  • Simeon Abiola (translational biomedical science)
  • Kathryn-Mary Wakim (neuroscience)

The winner will receive a $750 research travel award. There are also $500 and $200 research travel awards, respectively, for the runner-up and the people’s choice winner.

Congratulations Kamy on reaching the finals!!!

Read More: Neuroscience Graduate Student Kathryn-Mary Wakim one of Eight Finalists in the Three Minute Thesis Competition