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New Approaches for Characterizing Proprioception in Individuals with Stroke

Monday, February 10, 2020

11:00am – 12:00pm

310 Kelly Hall, Virginia Tech Campus

Netta Gurari

Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences

Northwestern University


Activities of daily living, including opening a drawer and cutting a piece of fruit, require not only the correct generation of movements, but also the accurate interpretation of those movements. In the USA, 5.6 million individuals who survive a stroke are facing difficulty performing such movements due to sensorimotor impairments that arise as a result of hemiparesis, or weakness in half their body. Changes to their force production and motor task execution have been well studied and documented. However, the impact of a hemiparetic stroke on an individual’s ability to perceive their movements has not been as extensively characterized. Prior work suggests that the effect of inaccurate perception is substantial during bimanual tasks, e.g., carrying a tray with hot drinks, pushing a grocery cart, and caring for an infant. By understanding the reason that inaccurate perception occurs, we can develop science-based interventions that lead to improved sensorimotor outcomes in millions of stroke survivors.  

In this seminar, I will discuss how we have been using behavioral experiments and mechatronic systems to improve our understanding of proprioception in humans. Applying this approach to individuals’ post-hemiparetic stroke, we adopted new experimental methods to quantify how accurately they can identify their self-generated elbow torques across a variety of tasks. Results from these experiments show that the extent of the deficits depend on how the participant completes the task (e.g., whether the participant matches a torque within a single arm or between arms during a single-joint or a multi-joint task). Furthermore, findings support the notion that inaccurate torque judgement arises post-hemiparetic stroke since an individual does not adapt to their motor impairments. I will discuss the implications of our findings and our preliminary work exploring how to create a rehabilitation intervention. The clinical relevance of this work includes highlighting the importance of accurate torque judgment, developing appropriate perceptual assessment methods, and providing a rehabilitation treatment.  


Netta Gurari is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences at Northwestern University. She directs the Robotics and Sensorimotor Control Lab, which is comprised of a multidisciplinary research team that is investigating how humans perceive somatosensory signals of their upper limbs. This research is executed through behavioral studies and is achieved by integrating tools and knowledge from areas including robotics, cognitive neuroscience, electrophysiology, neuroimaging, and physical therapy. Dr. Gurari received her B.S.E. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and received her M.S.E. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering Dean's Fellowship. She was awarded an NIH K25 Career Development Award in 2018.