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Faculty of Science
NSERC grant helps kinesiology student further Parkinson’s research
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If asked to reach up and scratch our heads, most of us could easily do this with one hand. But for others – mainly those who suffer from Parkinson’s disease – the task is made harder due to a symptom of the illness called mirror movements, which are unwanted movements that occur on the opposite side of the body.
Understanding the mechanisms that allow people to perform movements with only one hand is the focus of research by Master of Science kinesiology student Simon Sharples, who recently earned a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Industrial Postgraduate Scholarship.
“This Industrial Partnership scholarship will provide me with the means to expand my breadth of knowledge and experience within the field of neuroscience,” said Sharples. “At the same time it will provide me with the means to dedicate more time toward my research pursuits.”
As part of the scholarship, Sharples will work with Northern Digital Inc. (NDI), a company that manufactures optic-based motion tracking systems for a variety of industries. He will apply their technology to help ensure magnetic coils used in a technique known as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) are used in the same area of the brain every time.
During TMS, a magnetic pulse is discharged in the supplementary motor area (which is located on the outer surface of the brain about five centimetres in front of the crown of the head). By doing this, researchers can assess how neuronal circuits react by either blocking or allowing movement.
Sharples has already completed his first study on mirror movements in healthy people with and without neuromuscular fatigue. He presented the results at a Society of Neuroscience conference in San Diego in November, and plans to begin his Parkinson’s research in January 2011.
The research is being conducted under the supervision of Jayne Kalmar, assistant professor of kinesiology and physical education, and in collaboration with Quincy Almeida, director of Laurier's Sun Life Financial Movement Disorders Research and Rehabilitation Centre (MDRC).
“None of this could have happened without their guidance and inspiration,” said Sharples.