Monday, March 19, 2018

URSP Student Michelle Dickerson Quantifies Motion Variability in Technical Dance Movements

 My project is actually an extension of the team project that I was apart of over the summer. This project attracted my attention because of its ability to integrate elements from dance and bioengineering. Because I used to be a dancer, diving more into the performing arts and using it to study bioengineering became very exciting for me. I became more interested

My current project is based on quantifying motion variability in technical dance movements. This involves studying and understanding dancers’ ability to perform sophisticated and intricate dance movements while changing their spatial orientation with little to no variability at all. On a weekly basis, I analyze data that was collected using the Optitrack Motion Capture system located in George Mason’s School of Dance. The data that I analyze includes looking at dancers who are performing a skilled dance sequence during multiple trials in untrained and trained spatial orientations. From this data, I observe the consistency of their anatomical alignment during specific movements in the sequence and how this varies from orientation to orientation.

This is directly related to my long-term goals because it opens the door for further understanding of neural processes in the brain. From the data analysis that I have been doing, I have learned that dancers provide insight on how new patterns of neuron activity are developed over time. This is very important as I plan on continuing to study motor learning and adaptation in the future. From observing these dancers, over periods of time, it seems that the brain is able to adapt fairly quickly to new motor skills that are learned. This could potentially lead to better ways of treating patients with neurodegenerative diseases or with neurocognitive impairments.

From this research, I have learned that our brain is such a complex system, yet, through repetition, it is able to create new patterns of activity in the neurons, which leads to more complex motor skills. This has sparked an interest for me to eventually start to dive more into studying neuron activity in the motor and sensory cortex in the brain. Without the involvement of OSCAR, I would have never discovered my research interests that I plan on pursuing long term.
in dancers and their ability to provide novel insight on the complex motor skills that they demonstrate.