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Practice Makes Perfect: Leveraging Exoskeleton Interactions To Elucidate The Motor Learning Process

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

Ph.D. Defense Date: July 14, 2023, 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm, CDT


Abstract: Humans are highly adaptable and can learn to interact with their environment, a process known as motor learning. The period of practice and assimilation through which we learn novel motor skills, also referred to as motor training, can have a significant effect on the quality of learning. My research leverages the Harmony exoskeleton, a bimanual robotic device designed for physical assistance and rehabilitation, to study and affect the learning of motor behaviors. The study of motor learning and training design is limited by the challenges of quantifying human behavior and changes in this behavior during learning. The exoskeleton addresses these challenges as it affords unique sensing, actuation, and control capabilities enabling the quantification of human behavior and intervention in the learning process. Through experimental results, I demonstrate how exoskeletons can better inform and probe the motor learning process. Based on my findings, I present a high-level framework for the design of adaptive exoskeleton based motor training protocols along with the potential challenges to implementing such an approach. This work has several promising applications including motor re-training for rehabilitation, prosthesis control, and athletic and surgical skill training.




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