By David J. Ostry (Professor, Psychology, McGill)
We frequently think of neuroplasticity in the human brain in the context of the developmental and maturational changes that occur in the brain and behaviour during childhood. Luckily, for those of us that are no longer children, the adult human brain remains remarkably plastic. A facet of this plasticity that has important clinical applications is that changes occur in both sensory and motor systems of the brain with surprisingly brief periods of training. I will tell you about a series of recent studies in my laboratory, where we see that the effects of motor learning spill over into sensory systems, and that perceptual learning may provide us with a back door to the motor system that can be exploited in therapeutic interventions.
Dr. Ostry's research focuses on understanding the biological mechanisms of voluntary movement and deals equally with speech production and human arm motion. His lab uses mathematical models, robots and behavioral and physiological techniques to assess motor function and the characteristics of motor learning. The overall goals are to understand the interplay of sensory and motor function and most recently, to understand how motor learning and adaptation affects sensory function in speech and limb movement. Dr. Ostry is also a senior scientist at Haskins Laboratories in New Haven, Connecticut.