George Mason University
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George Mason University

Dr. Wilsaan Joiner's Research Focuses on Motor Control Theory

October 12, 2014

Good things come in small packages, and the human brain is no exception.Tipping the scales at a mere three pounds, the human brain is the most complex organ in the body. It contains a hundred billion nerve cells, with more than 10 billion of them linked to the motor system that controls movement. 
 
How do we learn to move? Establishing the correct spatial and temporal patterns of activation is a complex process. It involves studying various muscles, sensory organs, neural levels, and numerous interactions. Everyday movements -- walking, jumping, or running -- require a learning process we rarely think about unless we need to relearn these actions because of injury or disease. We use a similar learning process for new motor skills such as writing or playing tennis.
 
Human movements also pose an interesting problem for our senses. In other words, how do we distinguish the changes in the environment (feeling the wind on our skin) from the sensations that result from our own actions (feeling air rushing past our arms as we move)? Assistant professor Wilsaan Joiner's research focuses on how we learn new motor skills and how we distinguish self-caused and externally caused sensations.
 
Joiner came to the Volgenau School of Engineering's Department of Bioengineering in 2012 after postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard and the National Institutes of Health. In his Sensorimotor Integration Laboratory in the Volgenau School, Joiner focuses his research on motor control to better understand the conditions that influence motor learning, generalization, and retention and the effect of movements on sensation.
 
"The main objective of this research is to use what we discover in the laboratory setting to help create devices and treatment strategies for the motor and perceptual disabilities associated with disorders of neural movement signals and their transmission throughout the brain," says Joiner.
 
To read more about Joiner's research go to this fall's Bioengineering I Newsletter.
 

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