Whether we are buttoning a shirt or holding a fork, pinching is something we do thousands of times a day, usually without thinking about it. But Jacob Vines thinks about it a lot.
The research Jacob has done at UT on fine motor function has steered him toward a life of serving others in need of hand rehabilitation. And after graduation this year, Jacob plans to work for a year as a technician in a physical therapy facility then enroll in a physical therapy graduate program and become a therapist.
“I’ve always liked research,” says the kinesiology senior from Abilene. At UT, he joined the Motor Coordination Lab in the College of Education. “I thought joining a lab would be a good growing experience to learn how research is conducted.” Grow he did, and last year, he was awarded the university’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship for his project examining the neuromuscular forces involved in fine motor abilities such as pinching.
In the study he designed, subjects move a cursor around a screen in a diamond shape using different combinations of force on sensors from the thumb and index finger to control the direction. Like the classic toy Etch A Sketch — in which one dial controls vertical position and the other horizontal — here, the pressure from the index finger controls the cursor’s vertical position while the pressure from the thumb controls its horizontal position.
By measuring the subjects’ accuracy, Jacob is hoping to learn more about the nuances of how the brain and muscles coordinate to accomplish this seemingly simple undertaking. His results could lead to new therapeutic tasks for patients with neurological problems, providing better ways of measuring improvement during rehabilitation.