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Aimee Nelson

Aimee Nelson

Canada Research Chair in Sensorimotor Neuroscience

Tier 2: 2017-07-01


Biography:

Department of Kinesiology Profile | Neurophysiology and Imaging Lab | Canada Research Chair Profile

Research involves

Using non-invasive techniques to measure these changes, the research will create a comprehensive understanding of the impact of fitness on neural activity. 

Research relevance

The CRC research investigates how cardiovascular fitness change neural activity in the brain and in the spinal cord in humans, and will lead to the development of exercise-based therapies to promote motor function in patients with neurological injury or disease.

Using Exercise to Promote Neural Plasticity

In the 1990s, classical guitarist Liona Boyd was on top of the world with five Juno awards and a thriving career as “Canada’s first lady of the guitar”. By 2002, she was sidelined with a debilitating neurological disorder that had her struggling to control the fingers of her right hand.

The culprit was focal hand dystonia (FHD), a movement disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions that occur during a specific skilled hand movement. It affects one in 2,000 individuals, many of them musicians, surgeons, writers and others whose professions rely on fine motor skills. Affected individuals are often treated with botox injections, which relax the muscles, but these are ineffective in many patients and some develop resistant antibodies.

Using cutting-edge techniques in functional near-infrared spectroscopy, one-proton magnetic spectroscopy, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), Dr. Aimee Nelson is advancing our knowledge of the connection between exercise and the changes in the nervous system that accompany exercise.

By understanding the abnormal somatosensory physiology underlying the condition, Dr. Nelson hopes to develop rehabilitative regimes for FHD and other neurological disorders that modify brain activity and ameliorate symptoms. This research will have far-reaching implications for rehabilitative approaches that use exercise to improve human movement.