Welcome to my web site!

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My Professional Background

I am an Assistant Professor in the Program in Neuroscience at Bates College. My lab investigates how people learn and maintain motor skills. I completed my postdoctoral training in the Intelligent Performance and Adaptation Laboratory at Princeton University, and I earned my PhD in the BlinkLab at Baylor College of Medicine.

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What Do I Study?

I am interested in the neurocognitive bases for movement. Our brains are exquisitely tuned to our bodies, and we are able to do things like write our names because our brains have learned how to connect these goals to the muscles needed to achieve them. Writing may feel simple, but it would sure take me a long time to figure out what joint movements need to happen for me to scrawl "Olivia" on a piece of paper! How does the brain do these computations on the fly? And how can the brain account for the changes that our bodies go through (injury, growth, aging, etc.) so that we can keep on moving?

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I like to do handicrafts, cook, and go outside. I also have a cat named Dante (he is 17 years old!). Click here for more.

Recent Publications

Exploring the role of task success in implicit motor adaptation

The brain is constantly attempting to account for all regularities in the environment. But can pressure to maximize task success undermine our implicit tendancy to adapt to consistent but goal-irrelevant errors? To address this question, I collaborated with Naser Al-Fawakhiri, Ambri Ma, and Prof. Jordan Taylor of the IPA Lab at Princeton University. Our results show that, even without thinking about it, we are sensitive to differences in visual indicators of task success: complete success appears to affect learning more than partial success. These findings support a body of work indicating that implicit learning systems are sensitive to multiple measures of success and accuracy, rather than obeying a unitary error-basaed learning regime.

Motor learning without movement

We are always learning from our mistakes, since the brain is constantly monitoring the world for any surprises, A.K.A. Prediction Errors. For this project, I collaborated with Alex Forrence and Prof. Sam McDougle of the ACT Lab at Yale University to demonstrate that the brain predicts the consequences of planned movements, computes prediction errors, and updates future movements, even if we subsequently decide not to move at all. Thus, the brain can learn to update movements that are not performed, representing a mechanism for learning based only on movement planning and sensory expectation. These findings also provide further support for the role of prediction in motor control.

The inferior olive teaches the cerebellum

When something we expect to happen does not come to pass, we experience a Negative Prediction Error. During my PhD, I worked with Prof. Shogo Ohmae and Prof. Javier Medina at Baylor College of Medicine to demonstrate that the inferior olive encodes negative prediction error signals during motor learning, and triggers extinction in the cerebellum.


Hobbies and things I think are neat

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This is Dante. He was born July 4, 2007 or 2008, and I have had him since then ❤.

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Chocolate Raspberry Cake

This cake came out really tasty -- the raspberries were a little expensive, but the chocolate/raspberry combo was a nice treat.

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I've been crocheting off-and-on for about 20 years, but want to get more into cross stich, embroidery, and sewing. This is a photo of a project that I have since finished.

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Recent Read: Remember

The book I've actually finished most recently is Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting by Lisa Genova, and I really enjoyed it! Genova has an engaging voice, and I love how she explains the strengths/weaknesses of memory, what is (or isn't) Alzheimer's disease, and what we can do to feel better about our brains and their ability to remember. Definitely recommend. If you're in Lewiston and interested in reading it, Remember is in the collection at the Lewiston Public Library.

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Recent Viewing: Immortals

I recently watched Immortals (dir. Tarsem Singh Dhandwar) (avaialable for streaming on Max at time of writing). A very beaufiful film. You can really see the influence of ancient art and Renaissance painting in the framing, choreography, and color palettes. The last shot was especially striking to me. I wouldn't recommend the film for everyone (I suggest checking out the crowd-sourced trigger warnings for this film before watching), but I enjoyed it.

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Brood X Locust

I don't know a lot about insects, but I think they're neat. This is one of the Brood X Locusts -- they emerge once every 17 years in the Princeton area and have been observed since the 1700s. These locusts didn't mind people very much, and there were so many of them that it was a bit overwhelming... Here's a fun article about them.

Current Studies

Interested in participating in research? I am recruiting folks to participate in these studies:

How does aging affect movement?

People often think that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but Mary Oliver wrote "probably nothing important is ever that easy . . . Not, say, for the first sixty years" (Hallelujah, lines 6-7). So... which of these statements is true? Come into the lab to help find out which applies more when it comes to the ways we move!

What would we do? Play a simple computer game and fill out some surveys/paper tests

How long would it take? About 45 - 60 minutes

Where? Pettengill Hall, Bates College Campus (Google Maps link for Pettengill Hall; Google Maps link for parking option 1; Google Maps link for parking option 2)

When? Now through August 9

Eligibiltiy requirements: 65 years of age or older, normal/corrected to normal vision, ability to comfortably move the hand/wrist/fingers for 30 minutes, English fluency

Compensation: For participating in this study, you can choose one of two thank-you packages.
1. Buffet-style lunch at Bates Dining Commons (Menu Here - updated weekly) followed by a tour at the Bates College Museum of Art (More museum information here)
2. Buffet-style dinner at Bates Dining Commons (Menu Here - updated weekly) followed by a Bates Dance Festival Performance (Performances and Schedules here, available while supplies last)

We can work with up to 5 participants at a time. If you and a few friends are interested, we would be happy to schedule a time when you could all come in for the study together, have a meal, and see some art/dance!

Risks: People with arthritis of the hand/wrist may experience discomfort and may not wish to participate. There are no other risks anticipated in this study.

How to sign up? Contact me (Prof. Olivia Kim) by email (okim@bates.edu) or by phone (207-753-6914) to schedule a session. I am generally available by phone from 9-10AM, 11AM-2PM, and 3PM-7PM. If I miss your call, please leave a message with your name and number so that I can call you back.