Dr Joseph Galea (Birmingham Fellow, School of Psychology) has been awarded the '2012 Klein-Vogelbach Prize for the Research of Human Movement' for his paper 'Dissociating the roles of the cerebellum and motor cortex during adaptive learning: the motor cortex retains what the cerebellum learns' (Galea, Vazquez, Pasricha, Orban deXivry, Celnik; Cerebral Cortex, 2011).
Dr Galea and the team used electrical stimulation to increase the function of two independent brain regions called the cerebellum and motor cortex during a task which involved learning a new movement. They found that cerebellar stimulation caused faster learning of the action. In contrast, stimulation of the motor cortex did not affect learning but resulted in a marked increase in retention of the newly learnt action. These results show a clear dissociation in the processes of learning and retention during motor learning and demonstrate that the cerebellum and motor cortex have distinct roles. These results have important implications for the rehabilitation of stoke patients where the goal is to maximize motor learning and retention.
The 'Klein-Vogelbach award' includes prize money of £7,000 and is awarded to researchers in neuroscience and associated sciences whose work is oriented to a better understanding of the underlying principles of human movement and its rehabilitation. In explanation of their decision to award Dr Galea the prize the jury panel stated "We were impressed by the originality and clarity of your approach, the important results and its consequences for the understanding of motor learning and furthermore by the enormous output you have already achieved in young years."