How does the human body really move? Stephanie Godleski '05 wants to find out. As a member of the varsity crew team and a crew coach in her hometown during the summer, Godleski admits that her "fascination with movement is due to my participation in athletics." While teaching high school students and adult rowers, Stephanie has also focused on her fascination with human movement by conducting a summer research project with Aram Kudurshian '06 and Professor of Psychology Jonathan Vaughan.
Under the advisement of Professor Vaughan, Godleski is investigating how people plan to make simple actions, such as picking things up or tapping their fingers. When people decide to perform an action, "we have an infinite number of possible ways to accomplish the action," says Vaughan, "but we seem to be able to plan and execute everyday movements without apparent difficulty or extraordinary conscious effort." Godleski and Kudurshian started with a model that is normally used to analyze two-dimensional movement. Then they adapted it into a three-dimensional model where participants were viewed by two cameras, one overhead and another recording a side-view. As the cameras recorded, participants would point at a target on a 3-D board. The participant's arm was connected to sensors at their head, shoulder, elbow, wrist and the point of a tooltip that they were holding. After collecting the data, Godleski and Kudurshian studied the motor movement and posture of the participants when moving from target to target.
During their studies, Godleski and Kudurshian traveled to Pennsylvania State University to use a machine called the Optotrack system. The machine uses three cameras simultaneously, all recording at 120 frames per second, and the participant wears infared light-emitting diodes to monitor body movement during the experiment. For Godleski, the Penn State trip was a great opportunity to "interact with graduate students in psychology as well as professors." She appreciated the experience beyond the research because she is currently looking into graduate schools for psychology programs. After Hamilton, Godleski would like to be a clinical psychologist, as well as a high school crew coach.
Her background in athletics heavily motivated her work with human movement. "Anything that teaches us more about the human brain and physical movement can help us in instances where accident or injury affects one's interaction with the other," said Godleski. There are other medical applications to this research, including the movements of artificial and robotic arms, and the comprehension of Parkinson's disease. "If we understand how movements are planned… we can perhaps understand better what goes wrong in cases such as Parkinson's disease, where people have difficulty planning and executing their movements."
Vaughan's research in this area has been ongoing for about 15 years. The present focus of planning movements around obstacles in three-dimensional space is supported by a three-year research grant from the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke, under the Academic Research Enhancement Award program.
Stephanie Godleski is a psychology major who is a member of the Intercultural Women's Empowerment group. She also will be co-leading the Think Tank, a weekly discussion series sponsored by the Levitt Center.