Keynote Addresses

Join us at the Society for the Neural Control of Movement Annual Meeting to hear from our Distinguished Career Award Winner and the Early Career Award Winner deliver keynote presentations.

Distinguished Career Award Winner Presentation

Saturday, April 27, 2019
17:00 – 18:00

John Francis Kalaska

John Francis Kalaska

Département de Neurosciences, Faculté de Médecine, Université de Montréal

John Kalaska was born and raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario (Go Selkirk Rams!). He received a BSc in Life Sciences (1973) and a PhD in Zoology (specialization in Neurophysiology; 1979) at the University of Toronto. His doctoral thesis was on the reorganization of the primary somatosensory cortex in kittens and adult cats after peripheral nerve injuries. He then did a postdoctoral fellowship with Apostolos Georgopoulos at The Johns Hopkins University (1979-1981), during which they did the first large-scale quantitative study of the neural control mechanisms for reaching movements in the primary motor cortex and parietal cortex of non-human primates. He then received a faculty appointment in the Département de Physiologie (now Département de Neurosciences) of the Université de Montréal in 1982, where he remains to this day.



“Evolving perspectives on the cortical control of reaching movements”
(Random observations and recollections from a reasonably OK career)

Since the 1960s, neural recording studies of the cortical mechanisms of voluntary motor control have seen many technical and conceptual advances, from single-electrode recordings, restricted single-joint tasks and transcortical servo-control feedback loop models, to simultaneous multi-neuronal recordings, dimension-reduction algorithms, more naturalistic tasks and optimal-feedback and dynamical-network models. Through it all, the one constant has been the basic validity of the empirical data collected during experiments, irrespective of their initial motivation and interpretation. Those findings need to be reassessed but should not be dismissed. Rather than only dwelling on the past, I also plan to present new data showing that dorsal premotor (PMd) cortex neurons are implicated predominantly in the action-related aspects of a visual perceptual decision-making task before movement onset. After movement onset, the activity of many PMd neurons continues to reflect not only the chosen action but also the strength of evidence on which the decision was made and the associated likelihood of a successful outcome (“metacognition”).

Early Career Award Winner Presentation

Wednesday April 24, 2019
10:30 – 11:00

Gelsy Torres-Oviedo

Gelsy Torres-Oviedo

University of Pittsburgh

Gelsy Torres-Oviedo was born and raised in Mexico City, where her family still resides. She earned her Physics degree at UT Austin and subsequently her PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory, where she developed analytical tools for identifying consistent muscle activity for balance control with the guidance of Prof. Lena Ting. Gelsy was then a postdoctoral fellow with Prof. Amy Bastian at KKI and JHU School of Medicine, where she investigated factors that enhance the generalization of locomotor adaptation. Gelsy is currently an Assistant Professor in Bioengineering at The University of Pittsburgh, directing the Sensorimotor Learning Laboratory. Her research group investigates the principles by which unimpaired subjects and individuals with cortical lesions adapt learned movements and acquire new ones through interactions with the world.




“Sensorimotor adaptation studies to advance neurorehabilitation after stroke”


My long-term research goals are to advance the current understanding of walking deficits post-stroke and develop treatments to improve their gait. My approach has been to combine quantitative tools from engineering and experimental work based on post-stroke neurology. I believe that this multidisciplinary approach is needed to advance the field of gait rehabilitation; provide insights into patients’ motor deficits; and generate predictions of treatment outcomes on an individual basis. At NCM 2019, I will focus the discussion on my work related to the generalization of movements from trained to untrained situations. I will start presenting a detailed characterization of muscle activity (i.e., EMGs) associated to errors elicited by introducing a split-belt environment of two opposite directions (i.e., right leg moving faster than the other or vice versa). This quantification revealed that motor patterns upon split-belt removal after sensorimotor recalibration are the same as those first experienced upon introduction of the opposite perturbation (Iturralde and Torres-Oviedo, bioRxiv 2018). From a clinical perspective, our detailed EMG characterization is relevant because it indicates clinical targets post-stroke and has also revealed a partial dissociation in the execution and recalibration of motor commands: the execution requires intact cerebral structures, whereas the recalibration does not. From a basic science perspective, our findings are important because they support the theory that 1) people develop motor memories associated to specific walking conditions (e.g., split-belt environments of different direction) and that 2) errors upon introduction or removal of a new environment enable the transition between motor memories appropriate to the context at hand. Based on this theory, I will discuss the effect of errors of different magnitude and direction on the generalization of motor patterns from the treadmill to overground (model predictions and empirical results will be contrasted). Overall, my work is just an example of scientific efforts to address clinical problems through a combination of computational and laboratory-based studies. I envision that my research will contribute to the progress of gait rehabilitation and ultimately improve the quality of life of patients and caregivers.