Doctors Matt Miller and Keith Lohse, both assistant professors in the School of Kinesiology, teamed up with Dr. Alessandro Bruzi and Dr. Marco Barbosa at the Federal University of Lavras in Brazil to investigate the effects of learner-controlled feedback and difficulty on motor learning.
Dr. Miller and his doctoral student, Kirk Grand, first worked with Dr. Bruzi on whether participants learn better when they decide when to receive feedback as opposed to the instructor or experimenter deciding when to give feedback. The study, “Why Self-Controlled Feedback Enhances Motor Learning: Answers from Electroencephalography and Indices of Motivation,” published in the journal Human Movement Science in October 2015, found that the participant is more motivated and the task is more enjoyable when it is learner-controlled. Also, more cognitive processing occurs, which was measured using an electroencephalogram (EEG) that detects electrical activity in the brain using small, flat metal discs, or electrodes, attached to the subject’s scalp.
With his partners in Brazil, Dr. Lohse is now studying how learner-controlled difficulty impacts motor learning using a video game with various levels of difficulty. The self-controlled group chooses the level of difficulty of the game, while the yoked group is given the level of difficulty. The participant’s score in the video game measures the amount of motor learning acquired. The researchers are finding that having a choice helps one engage in the task. Doctoral student Amber Leiker is assisting with this study involving 72 subjects being trained and tested over two weeks. The goal of this research is to better understand how game mechanics can improve learning and, ultimately, rehabilitation for movement disorders.
Doctors Bruzi and Barbosa visited Auburn University for 17 days in September to collaborate on this new study and to execute a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Auburn University’s School of Kinesiology and Federal University of Lavras. Dean of the College of Education, Dr. Betty Lou Whitford, signed the agreement fostering cooperative relations to develop academic and cultural interchange through mutual assistance in the areas of education and research. Bruzi earned his Ph.D. in Motor Learning and Physical Education, and Barbosa is a physical therapist and physical educator who hopes to use this paradigm to rehabilitate patients.
Dr. Miller was introduced to Dr. Bruzi through Auburn Ph.D. student, Philipe Aldahir, who studied at the University of Lavras and then at Ohio State, before coming to Auburn. Aldahir is working on his Ph.D. under the advisory of Dr. Scott McElroy in the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences. His research focuses in Bermuda grass wear and shade tolerance in a stadium-simulated environment and root zone construction for Bermuda grass athletic fields.