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Studies: Motor control development continues longer than previously believed
Date:9/18/2013

The development of fine motor controlthe ability to use your fingertips to manipulate objectstakes longer than previously believed, and isn't entirely the result of brain development, according to a pair of complementary studies.

The research opens up the potential to use therapy to continue improving the motor control skills of children suffering from neurodevelopmental disorders such as cerebral palsy, a blanket term for central motor disorders that affects about 764,000 children and adults nationwide

"These findings show that it's not only possible but critical to continue or begin physical therapy in adolescence," said Francisco Valero-Cuevas, corresponding author of two studies on the matter one appearing in the Journal of Neurophysiology and the other in the Journal of Neuroscience.

"We find we likely do not have a narrow window of opportunity in early childhood to improve manipulation skills, as previously believed, but rather developmental plasticity lasts much longer and provides opportunity throughout adolescence" he said. "This complements similarly exciting findings showing brain plasticity in adulthood and old age."

Researchers had previously been able to detect improvements in fine motor control of the hand only until around age eight to 10; however, Valero-Cuevasa professor of biomedical engineering and of biokinesiology and physical therapyinvented a tool that allows for more precise measurement of fine motor control.

The tool is simple springs of varying stiffness and length set between plastic pads which he has patented. Motor skill is then determined by individual's ability to compress the increasingly awkward spring devices. Sudarshan Dayanidhi, during his PhD studies at USC with Valero-Cuevas, developed and applied clinically useful versions of this technology with great success.

With this new tool, and in collaboration with sa Hedberg and Hans Forssberg of the Astrid Lin
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Contact: Robert Perkins
perkinsr@usc.edu
213-740-9226
University of Southern California
Source:Eurekalert

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