California State University, Long Beach
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CSULB Receives $875K NIH Grant

Three researchers from CSULB have been awarded a four-year, $875,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct research and testing on motor capabilities.
Titled “Age-dependent Changes in Motor Learning Capabilities,” the study will focus on theory based methods for teaching motor learning and motor control, which predict that learning and retention will be more robust when practice requires higher levels of cognitive processing.

The project will be overseen by principal investigator Michael J. Cohen, a volunteer faculty member in CSULB’s Department of Kinesiology, along with co-investigators Michael G. Lacourse, associate dean of the College of Health and Human Services, and Douglas E. Young, a professor of kinesiology.

The proposed research will compare learning of a new motor skill (lever aiming task) across four age groups under conditions of blocked (static) or random (dynamic practice) along with conditions of constant or limited knowledge of results. Additionally, these paradigms will be run with an MRI-compatible force transducer during functional magnetic resonance imaging of the brain.

Techniques known as high contextual interference and partial knowledge of results will be used on some study participants and compared to others receiving low contextual interference and knowledge of results on every trial. High contextual interference and partial knowledge of results have been shown to initially produce slower learning, but better retention of what is learned with an enhanced ability to use that new learning in other situations.

With the increase in the elderly population, the study will look at using these methods in a controlled laboratory situation across the adult life span. Participants will be screened for cognitive status, anxiety, depression, vision, hearing, upper-limb range-of-motion and general health.

The study is recruiting healthy individuals that span the age groups of 21-30, 41-50, 61-70 and 75+ from the Long Beach VA Healthcare System; students and staff of CSULB, including the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute; and residents of Leisure World Seal Beach and Leisure World Laguna Woods.