Human Performance

Division Chief: Donald Robin, Ph.D.

Human Motor Performance Laboratory
Neurocognitive Laboratory


The Division focuses on the development and implementation of measures of human performance that are the used with various imaging modalities. For examples, precise measures of motor performance and cognitive skills allows for correlations between imaging results and performance thereby providing an ability to model neural function for these tasks and applying these models to (1) understanding various patient populations and (2) developing treatments for various patient populations.


Human Motor Performance Laboratory (HMPL)


Laboratory Director: Donald Robin, Ph.D.

The HMPL is designed for the study of motor control and learning in limb and speech systems. The laboratory is structured to facilitate the study of healthy subjects and those with various neurological (e.g., Stroke, Parkinson‘s Disease) and speech disorders (e.g., Stuttering, Apraxia of Speech). A focus of the laboratory is the development of new behavioral treatments for a variety of motor disorders and the integration of performance measures with different imaging modalities. THE HMPL is actively involved in the development of new measures to capture human performance (e.g., application of 3-dimensional movement analysis during functional imaging). As such, data collection instrumentation has been made portable for use in other laboratories. Finally, the laboratory focuses on how humans learn to perform new skills (and regain those skills in the cases of patient groups) in relation to brain plasticity and changes in connectivity.

Subject Testing Room: Subjects are studied in one of two rooms. The first room in designed for the collection of kinematic data and also contains a number of data analysis stations. This room is housed with both PC and MAC computers; a movement capture system with applicability for limb and speech systems, and a robot arm. The inner room houses a sound isolated booth and outer technician area each with a PC computer. The sound room is designed for audio and video capture of speech and limb data and is used primarily for treatment studies associated with various motor disorders (e.g., stuttering, Parkinson‘s Disease).

NDI Optotrak Certus (s-Type): This optical movement detection system that tracks the position and movement of infrared light emitting diodes with two sets of cameras (to minimize blind spots during movement). The system allows for representation of movements of any body part (e.g., arm, lips) in 3-dimension space in real time. The system contains a control unit that allows for synchronization with other signals (e.g., EMG; speech) and data collection from other signal sources. It also has triggering capability to time for example the onset of a TMS pulse with data collection. The system is highly accurate relative to position and time allowing for precise measurement of kinematic data. The system has a spatial resolution of 0.01 mm and a temporal accuracy that is less than 1 ms.


Thermo CRS F3 Robot System: The F3 Robot system consists of the robot arm, controller, and umbilical cable (for powering the arm and communication between the arm and controller). The F3 arm has 6 joints for accurate spatial localization from any angle. The controller contains safety circuits, power and motion control for the arm. It stores feedback information from encoders located in the arm, and computes trajectories through storage of applications in memory. The controller detects any damaging situations (e.g., overheating, errors in communication) which when trigger cause an immediate shutdown. The arm has 6 axes and weighs 52 kg with a nominal payload of 3kg and a reach of 710mm. The system has a positional repeatability of 0.05 mm, a maximum linear speed of 4 m/s, and breaks on the first 3 joints. The controller has a dual microprocessor (133 MHz system processor and a 60 MHz DSP (motion control). It has 16 digital inputs, 12 digital outputs, 1 analog input, and 4 relay outputs. It weighs 31 kg. The robot meets FDA safety specifications and is used with both healthy subjects and those with motor disorders.

Acoustic and Perceptual Measures of Speech: The laboratory is fully equipped with microphones and digital video-recorders for analysis of speech and limb data (e.g., motor rating scales). Computers digitize audio signals at less than 22 KHz for acoustic and perceptual analyses. In general, in-house routines have been developed for analysis of the acoustic signal through the use of PRAAT.

Neurocognitive Laboratory

Laboratory Director: Donald Robin, Ph.D. (Interim)

The RII has three sound dampened rooms dedicate to neuropsychological testing, psychological assessments and medical screening. The rooms are equipped with a comfortable chair for the subjects, tables for the testing materials and adjustable lighting. Each room also has computers for computerized presentations. A third room is larger and equipped with additional tables and computers for technical staff to work and process data. Total square feet for all three rooms is 300 sq. ft. The first two are approximately 83 sq. ft., the third is approximately 125 sq. ft. In addition, the RII has two certified nuclear medicine technologists, Betty Heyl and David Lewis, on full time staff. Both are trained and certified to draw blood. The samples will be stored at 40ºC in a refrigerator designated for this purpose in the larger of the three testing rooms.

Division Grants

  • "Efficacy of Voice Treatment for Parkinson?s Disease", NIH/R01 DC001150. PI: Lorraine Ramig.
  • Parkinson‘s Disease (PD) hypophonia and dysprosodia improve with LSVT. The central mechanisms involved in such treatment effects are unknown. In the present project, these mechanisms will be investigated with performance measures and functional neuroimaging (Positron Emission Tomography or PET).

  • "STRONGSTAR NeuroImaging Core", DOD. PI: Peter Fox.
  • This is the NeuroImaging Core for the STRONGSTAR Multidisciplinary PTSD Research Consortium.

  • "Expanding a Neural Model of Speech Using Virtual Lesions and Connectivity Studies", NIH/R21DC009467. PI: Shalini Narayana.
  • The long-range goal of this research program is the development of a system-level model of the human speech-motor system (SMS) that encompasses normal and disordered speech motor control. The goal of the current proposal is to test portions of the Directions into Velocities of Articulators (DIVA) a model of speech production that has both behavioral and neural components.

  • "Stuttering Therapy and Neurophysiological Interaction", NIH/R01DC007893. PI: Roger Ingham.
  • This Phase II trial of the Modifying Phonation Intervals (MPI) stuttering treatment program will compare that treatment to the current standard of care, while simultaneously testing the theory that stuttering treatment efficacy is functionally related to specified changes in an established neural system model of stuttering.

  • "Genetics of Brain Structure and Function", NIH/R01 MH078143. PI: David Glahn.
  • The overall goal of this project is to identify quantitative trait loci associated with variation in brain structure and function.

  • "Sensory Mechanisms of Voice Control", NIH/R01 DC006243, April 2004-March 2014, PI: Charles Larson, Ph.D./Donald A. Robin, Ph.D.

Division Collaborators
Kirrie J. Ballard, Ph.D. - University of Sydney
Cynthia Fox, Ph.D. - University of Arizona, National Center for Voice and Speech
Frank Guenther, Ph.D. - Boston University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Chuck Larson, Ph.D. - Northwestern University
Howard Poizner, Ph.D. - University of California San Diego (UCSD)
Lorraine Ramig, Ph.D. - University of Colorado, National Center for Voice and Speech
Terry Sejnowski, Ph.D. - UCSD, Salk Institute, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Jason Tourville, Ph.D. - Boston University