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Jan 03 2012

NYIT Medical Researcher Focuses on "Smart Reflexes"

Old Westbury, N.Y.  (January 3, 2012)  -- Sometimes, pouring a cup of coffee is just pouring a cup of coffee.

But not for Dr. Isaac Kurtzer, an assistant professor in the department of neuroscience and histology at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYCOM) at NYIT. 
Instead, for Kurtzer, pouring a cup of coffee is the result of a complex physical and neurological relationship at the heart of his recent research.
Kurtzer’s study, co-authored with several colleagues from Sweden and Canada, demonstrated that a particular area of the brain is responsible for both voluntary movements and reflexive actions that allow us to perform quickly and accurately.  The study earned Kurtzer a milestone:  he became the first NYCOM faculty member to be published in Nature, the prestigious journal of science.
“Corrective and planned actions are linked,” said Kurtzer, noting that the brain area – the primary motor cortex – supports both abilities.
For a human pouring a cup of coffee, the primary motor cortex sends a planned series of signals that produce a complex series of coordinated motions with the wrist, elbow, and shoulder.  The same area is responsible for fast Isaac Kurttzer's Brain Researchcorrections that are needed while pouring since it is not always possible to predict the rate at which a coffee cup is filled and correcting too little or too much could result in a spill.  Kurtzer said the corrections are also quite sophisticated – they could even be considered “smart reflexes” – since they also produce a complex series of coordinated motions with the wrist, elbow, and shoulder.
Kurtzer said the research may be helpful to others who study nervous system disorders.
“If you know more about corrective actions, you can know more about an underlying disease and how it’s altered the nervous system," Kurtzer said.  "It could lead to better diagnostics and rehabilitation techniques.”
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