Dr. Aimee Nelson Ph.D.

Aimee Nelson Ph.D.

Canada Research Chair (Tier II) Sensorimotor Control

The purpose of my research is to develop fundamental understanding of the cortical control of the human hand and upper limb.

My research program is focused on the somatosensory contributions to motor control; human hand control is profoundly dependent on the integrity of somatosensory input that arises from touch and muscle receptors. Multiple cortical areas receive and process somatosensory input yet little is known about the role of these areas in the control of human hand movement. My research program is primarily focused on investigating the role of somatosensory loci in the control of hand movement in healthy and clinical populations such as individuals with spinal cord injury. Students in my lab use a combination of neurophysiology techniques including transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and functional magnetic resonance imaging.

One of the long-term goals of my research in the PACE is to improve hand and arm control in individuals with incomplete spinal cord injury. To achieve this goal, we are initiating several studies that aim to combine positive plasticity-inducing effects of TMS with positive plasticity-inducing effects of exercise. Our initial studies in SCI will examine the neural output of the motor cortex to the muscles of the hand. These studies will determine the extent of the remaining connections between the neurons in the motor cortex and spinal cord with the muscles that control finger and hand movements. Further, we are measuring how the remaining motor connections are modified by remaining sensory connections. These studies will tell us whether the motor connections can be modified, an essential element of inducing neural plasticity.

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