Date of Award

8-2020

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Engineering (M.S.E.)

Department

School of Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Samhita Rhodes

Second Advisor

Dr. John Farris

Third Advisor

Dr. Lisa Kenyon

Academic Year

2019/2020

Abstract

The ability to move and explore their surrounding environment plays a critical role in the development of cognitive function in children, especially during early childhood. The lack of independent and autonomous mobility is, therefore, a clear disadvantage for the overall development of children with multiple, severe disabilities. Limited number of studies have been conducted on the impact of power mobility device on this specific population. Previous exploratory and pilot studies showed promising results regarding quantifiable and consistent changes in the electroencephalogram (EEG) of children with multiple, severe disabilities when provided with power mobility training. This study aimed to further extend our understanding of the cognitive impact of power mobility training on a different population: healthy young adults aged 18 to 24 – a well-studied neurotypical control population. The study used Magnitude-Square Coherence (MSC) derived from the electroencephalogram (EEG) recorded at resting-yet-awake state before and after power mobility training to investigate changes in the functional connectivity in the brain of seven healthy young adults in the 18-to-24-year-old age range. Neural processes invoked between different functional lobes in the brain in: delta (1-4 Hz), theta (5-7 Hz), alpha (8-13 Hz), beta (14-30 Hz), and gamma (31-100 Hz) in response to power mobility training were examined and analyzed. Statistical analyses were then performed on the change, or difference in EEG coherence between the 5-minute rest with eyes closed before and after power mobility training. Results from both the paired t-test and the Wilcoxson-signed rank test with an alpha level of 0.05 (p≤0.05) on the change in EEG coherence after mobility training showed an overall decrease in EEG coherence between the parietal and temporal regions on healthy young adults after using the Trainer in all five frequency bands. Reduced interregional EEG coherence was found in the centro-parietal region for both the delta and beta frequency. Lower EEG coherence was also noted between the frontal and temporal regions in alpha frequency. These findings help edify that power mobility training is responsible for objectively quantifiable changes in neural network connectivity that may be correlated with improvement in subjective measures of cognitive gains on children with multiple, severe disabilities.

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