UW-Madison Department of Kinesiology - Peter van Kan

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Main Office

School of Education
Unit II Gym
2000 Observatory Dr.
MadisonWI  53706-1121

Tel: 608/262-0259
Fax: 608/262-1656

Email: kines@education.wisc.edu
or by contact form

Dr. Peter L. E. van Kan

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Dr. Peter L. E. van Kan

Associate Professor

2175 Medical Sciences Center  binoculars icon
1300 University Ave
Madison, WI 53706-1532
Office: 608/262-7423
Fax: 608/262-1639

Please visit our Lab Web Page


Post-doctoral training, Neuroscience
Northwestern University

Ph D, Physiology
University of California at Davis

MS, Physiology
University of California at Davis

Kandidaats, Biology / Chemistry
Nijmegen University



Research Interests

Our long-term goal is to understand the neural control of reaching to grasp. Reaching to grasp is essential to primate motor behavior and strongly depends on cerebellar function. Cerebellar damage causes decomposition of reach-to-grasp movements: the reach becomes inaccurate and uncertain, and hand preshaping occurs at highly variable times within the reach. We use intermediate cerebellum, and its associated neural circuitry, as a model system for studying how the brain generates command signals for movements. We record signals transmitted by individual neurons in behaving monkeys. In addition, we study behavioral deficits resulting from reversible inactivation of specific cell groups, and we define relevant neural pathways anatomically. Our results support the hypothesis that intermediate cerebellar output via the rubrospinal tract is specialized for control of hand use: rubrospinal neurons may command muscle synergies that produce grouped digit extension to preshape the hand at the appropriate time within the reach. Selected Publications: Van Kan, P.L.E. and S. Geed. 2016. Grasp-based functional coupling between reach- and grasp-related components of forelimb muscle activity. J. Motor Behavior, in press. Van Kan, P.L.E. and M.L. McCurdy. 2002. Contribution of primate magnocellular red nucleus neurons to the timing of hand preshaping during reaching to grasp. J. Neurophysiol. 87: 1473-1487. Van Kan, P.L.E. and M.L. McCurdy. 2002. Discharge of primate magnocellular red nucleus neurons during reaching to grasp in different spatial locations. Exp. Brain. Res. 142: 151-157. Van Kan, P.L.E. and M.L. McCurdy. 2001. Role of primate magnocellular red nucleus neurons in controlling hand preshaping during reaching to grasp. J. Neurophysiol. 85: 1461-1478. Van Kan, P.L.E., K.M. Horn, and A.R. Gibson. 1994. The importance of hand use to discharge of interpositus neurones of the monkey. J. Physiol. 480: 171-190.

Awards and Honors

  • Sabbatical Leave w/ Educational Innovation Supplement
    Organization: UW-Madison
    Purpose: Teaching
    Scope: UW Madison
    Description: The objective of the sabbatical leave is to: 1) revise and enhance the curriculum pertaining to Neural Control of Movement, and 2) develop web-based modules for future on-line courses.
    Date(s): August 26, 2013 - May 25, 2014
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