James Ashe, MD

Professor, Department of Neuroscience

James Ashe

Contact Info


Office Phone 612-624-5833

Office Address:
4-134 Molecular & Cellular Biology Building

Lab Address:
Brain Sciences Center, VA Medical Center


Research Summary/Interests

Motor Learning and Adaptation

The primary interest of my laboratory is in motor learning in the most general sense. We are concerned with how we learn regularities in our immediate environment and how this learning is reflected in our actions and behavior. To address these issues, we use psychophysical studies, functional imaging in humans, and direct neural recording from areas in frontal cortex in non-human primates.

Specific Projects:

  1. Motor learning of new dynamic environments. We have been examining the neural control of adaptation and learning in specific physical environments, usually in the form of state dependent force fields. The work focuses on the learning, storage, and consolidation of and interference with internal models of motor behavior.
  2. Neural basis and mechanisms of motor learning in probabilistic environments. We examine how subjects use probabilistic information and predictability in their immediate environment to shape their actions and behavior. The learning behaviors we study range from complex probabilistic patterns to deterministic sequences.
  3. Neural control and learning of serial order. The concept of serial order is fundamental to much of our behavior from basic motor function to language production. We have examined the neural basis of serial order and sequence production in well practiced motor behaviors and also during the learning of these behaviors through trial and error.
  4. The modulation of action through reward. Much of our behavior is shaped by rewards (both external and internal); we have recently begun to examine how reward (and punishment) influences motor learning. Disruption of the reward-action system may be a fundamental problem in some disease conditions such as Parkinsons disease.
  5. Neural control of goals versus actions. In everyday life, we typically decide on goals and then perform the actions to achieve them. We are now studying the system in prefrontal cortex that deals with goals and actions in an effort to understand how these interrelated factors are controlled.


For a list of publications, see PubMed.