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PhD Proposal Review: Rashida Nayeem

June 11, 2021 @ 10:30 am - 11:30 am

PhD Proposal Review: Human Strategies in the Control of Complex Objects: A Task-Dynamic Approach with Clinical Applications

Rashida Nayeem

Location: Zoom Link

Passcode: 247537

Abstract: Functional interaction with objects – tool use – is essential in daily living and is regarded as the foundation of our evolutionary advantage. Humans effortlessly interact with a variety of objects, including those with complex internal dynamics. Even the simple action of picking up a cup of coffee to drink is a mechanically intricate process: the hand applies a force to the cup, and indirectly to the liquid, which exerts forces back on the hand. Reacting to and mitigating these dynamics in real time is difficult due to long sensorimotor delays and ubiquitous noise in the human sensorimotor system. Hence, prediction is necessary to preempt undesired ‘sloshing’. But prediction of this nonlinear and potentially chaotic object is extremely difficult. Hence, this research tests the hypothesis that humans learn to control the object to make dynamics simpler––or more predictable. Inspired by the task of transporting a ‘cup of coffee,’ a series of experiments use a virtual and a real testbed that model the task as a cup-and-ball system. In all experiments, human subjects move the cup with a rolling ball inside. Aim-1 investigates the effect of linearization on human control strategies in a 2D virtual task. Aim-2 examines if humans exploit initial conditions to facilitate predictable dynamics in the 2D virtual task. This is tested in subjects that are provided with either full sensory information, or when deprived of visual or haptic information. Aim-3 examines how subjects explore and prepare the cup-and-ball in the same 2D task and a novel 3D virtual task introducing planar cup movements. The question is how subjects explore and transport objects that have different dynamic properties, either unknown or indicated by the visual cues. The analysis adopts a task-dynamic approach that affords principled hypothesis-testing by parsing the complex dynamics into execution and result variables, with minimal assumptions about the human controller. Aim-4 takes the insights from this basic research to a clinical context, testing patients with stroke in this functional task. A real version of the cup-and-ball task was created to quantitatively assess severity and recovery of motor impairment in patients after stroke. Using the same analysis methods, the objective is to sensitively assess impairment in the context of a functional skill.


June 11, 2021
10:30 am - 11:30 am


Electrical and Computer Engineering
MS/PhD Thesis Defense