Madeleine Kay Vatterott, Ph.D.

Advisor: Dr. Jerome Frieman
Dissertation Title

Neuromuscular education for the physically disabled developmentally delayed through EMG training

Dissertation Abstract

This study was designed to determine if individuals with neuromuscular disturbances classified as severely or profoundly retarded could learn to increase muscular control through EMG training and an effective reinforcer. Twelve subjects (ages 10-27) classified as severely or profoundly retarded were given EMG baseline, functional skills, and range of motion assessments before, in the middle, and after the experiment. The subjects were divided into groups of four that were given the following procedures for 20 sessions between each of the assessment periods: contingent reinforcement EMG training in the first and second phase (the contingent/contingent group); non-contingent reinforcement EMG training in the first phase, contingent training in the second phase (the non-contingent/contingent group); or no treatment. For the contingent training, EMG surface electrodes were placed on the targeted muscles and a preferred reinforcer was delivered when muscle activity changed in the desired direction. For the non-contingent training, subjects were given the same number of reinforcers per session as their yoked control, but delivered independent of muscle activity. Two subjects (one in the contingent/contingent group and the other in the non-contingent/contingent group) appeared to increase muscular control in their targeted muscles. Another subject in the contingent/contingent group showed EMG changes in the desired direction that were most likely secondary to her raising her head to activate the reinforcer. Two other subjects produced muscular activity in the desired direction apparently due to the reinforcer presentation alone. Two subjects in the no treatment group showed EMG changes, however these changes may have been due to the influence of teeth grinding for one subject and to the lack of data points for the other. No consistent changes occurred in functional skill performance or range of motion for subjects showing gains from the EMG training. These results indicate that some individuals classified as severely or profoundly retarded may learn to increase muscular control through EMG training and an effective reinforcer.

Education

Ph.D., Psychology, Kansas State University, 1988