The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has awarded Anthony Carlsen a 5-year discovery grant to support his program of research. The research proposal, entitled “Investigation and modulation of neural structures underlying motor preparatory processes,” aims to determine the brain regions involved in preparing for upcoming actions. The grant, which funds the NeuroMotor Behaviour Lab at the University of Ottawa will primarily be used to support graduate student and research assistants and to ensure adequate supplies to allow the research to be carried out in a timely manner. This research has the potential to impact many lives, particularly in those with motor disorders that slow down reactions.
The process of preparing for upcoming actions, such as getting ready to start walking when a crossing signal changes, is both familiar and relatively effortless for most people. It’s only when these abilities are diminished due to neuromotor injury or disease (such as Parkinson’s disease) that we take note of their importance. Motor preparation involves changes in the activation of many structures along the nervous system, but the time course and precise neural pathways and connections involved in many of these processes are not well understood. The current research program is designed to explore the neural processes governing motor preparation from multiple viewpoints: 1) behavioural outcomes of processes related to preparation and initiation of actions, 2) neural structures underlying these preparatory processes, and 3) whether motor preparation can be increased or decreased using novel brain stimulation techniques such as TMS and tDCS. Each part of this research involves different methods and employs different levels of analysis in order to provide more holistic view of the neural contributions to motor preparation and the behavioural outcomes of experimental manipulations. This research will greatly extend our understanding of motor preparation and sensory integration from behavioural and neurophysiological levels of analysis with implications for individuals with neuro-motor disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and stroke. The outcomes of this research may have direct or indirect impacts in several areas: Knowledge gained from this research may contribute to the development of new technologies such as prosthetic devices, and this research may also lead to novel interventions and treatments for individuals with sensorimotor deficits, resulting in direct beneficial impacts to the health care system such as improved treatments and lowered costs.