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The Washington Research Foundation Fellowship
Kwang Seob Kim, Bioengineering and Biochemistry, 2011-12 WRFF
Growing up with parents who suffered from polio, I have always been interested in helping people with disabilities. I have struggled to find a field which I enjoyed that could train me to effectively help those who suffer from various diseases. While I received my education from the Department of Bioengineering, and worked in the Laboratory for Speech Physiology and Motor Control advised by Dr. Ludo Max, my ambitions became realized.
In Dr. Maxís lab, we attempt to better understand the central nervous system functioning in speech and non-speech movements, as well as the neural mechanisms underlying stuttering in particular. Our understanding of how the brain learns speech motor control is still limited as previous studies have mainly focused on upper limb sensorimotor control. The goal of my project is to design a protocol/procedure to quantify the ability of the speech sensorimotor systems to learn a completely novel sensorimotor mapping. This protocol has the potential to not only enhance our knowledge of motor learning, but to also improve the rehabilitation of individuals with movement disorders.
In the future, I wish to continue to research speech and/or non-speech motor control, including the development of neural prostheses (brain machine interfaces) for individuals with brain damage. Currently I am applying to various schools with doctorate programs focusing on neural engineering, motor control, and rehabilitation.
I would like to once again express my gratitude for support provided by the Washington Research Foundation Fellowship as it has allowed me to conduct my capstone project in bioengineering as well as continue to pursue my academic interests.
Mentor: Ludo Max, Speech and Hearing Sciences
Project Title: An integrated hardware-software approach to quantify the speech projection system's ability to learn movements with novel motor-to-sensory transformations
Abstract: Scientific knowledge of the brain is still considerably limited, especially on understanding of functions such as motor learning. Although many procedures have been designed to assess an individualís ability to update motor commands in an altered environment, few attempts have been made to design procedures to assess, and possibly improve, an individualís ability to learn a completely novel mapping of motor commands and sensory consequences. The latter approach has clinical potential given that brain disorders cause deficits in such neural representations and alternative movement strategies may aid recovery. While the above studies focused on hand or arm movements, we are interested in the speech motor system. This project aims to design the MATLAB code and protocols to test and quantify the ability of the speech motor system to learn neural representations of a novel link between motor commands and sensory results. We will make use of 3D electromagnetic motion capture technology that can track 3 position coordinates and 2 angles for up to 9 sensors on the tongue, lips, and jaw; thus for a maximum of 45 dimensions. These 45 dimensions will be mapped onto 2-dimensional movement of a cursor on a computer monitor. As subjects are instructed to move the cursor, subjectsí performance (i.e., learning of the novel mapping) will be quantified. We will then test an individual or a group of individuals from a clinical population (such as those with motor speech disorders or stuttering) and analyze their performance over time to design the most optimal techniques and procedures for quantifying speech sensorimotor systemís ability to learn the complex relationship between a high-dimensional movement space and a 2-dimensional visual space.