Research Field: Neuroscience
Until we are faced with a situation in which movement is compromised, for example following stroke, the complexity of our movement control is taken for granted. We know that specific ‘motor areas’ of the brain are important for planning and executing voluntary movements, and that damage to these motor areas results in disordered movement. Indeed, both movement control and brain structure degrade across the lifespan, but there is a mismatch: the age-related decline in movement control manifests much later than the age-related decline in brain structure. This mismatch is a problem because it increases the likelihood of irreversible changes in brain structure before the decline in function is recognised.
Dr Vallence’s research investigates the role of connectivity between motor areas of the brain in movement control and learning across the lifespan. This research increases our understanding of the complex interactions between brain regions that are important for movement control and can determine whether age-related changes in brain network connectivity drive age-related decline in movement control. This understanding is critical for us to develop targeted interventions to improve movement control not only in the aging population, but also in people with disordered movement, such as stroke survivors and people with Parkinson’s disease.