Dr. Amy Bastian
Kennedy Krieger Institute, John Hopkins University
Damage to the cerebellum is known to cause movement incoordination, also known as ataxia, and can arise from conditions ranging from direct trauma to genetic disorders. In studying the proprioceptive impairments of individuals with cerebellar ataxia, Dr. Amy Bastian, Chief Scientific Officer at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, is not only able to investigate how cerebellar damage impacts patients’ lives, but also deduce the specific roles that the cerebellum plays in movement.
By creating custom tasks for the Kinarm, Dr. Bastian was able to isolate specific forms of movement co-ordination that would have been otherwise undifferentiable. For instance, in her publication “Does a basic deficit in force control underlie cerebellar ataxia?” (2013), she found that patients with cerebellar damage performed well when asked to match either force magnitude or force direction in isolation, but scored significantly worse than control subjects when they had to produce a desired magnitude and direction synchronously. These results demonstrate how the cerebellum is vital for many movement computations, and could not have been produced without the controllable and customizable nature of the Kinarm.
Dr. Bastian has used Kinarm Labs in many other ways. She has studied how cerebellar ataxia affects sensory prediction of self-generated movement, active perception, limb position sense, long-latency response to perturbation, and the internal models of dynamics generated by the brain. Her findings have contributed greatly to our understanding of the role of the cerebellum, and have already led to improvements in individuals suffering from cerebellar ataxia, a patient group known to be rarely responsive to treatment.