Motion

‘Life is animation. To live is to move – Jane E. Clark’

Mission Statement

The research theme Motion aims at developing and disseminating knowledge and expertise regarding measurement techniques and clinical evaluation of human movement, diagnosis and treatment of movement related disorders.

Focus area

We focus on:

  • Measuring movement either through technical evaluations or functional tests;
  • Evaluation and understanding of the movement pattern as a diagnostic tool with consideration that movement results from the interaction of constraints in the task, the individual and the environment;
  • Clinical reasoning as a key element in the diagnostic process;
  • Influencing movement related disorders through focusing on communication, activation, training and functional movement interventions.

The research theme Motion focuses on the measurement of the human body in motion in order to understand movement principles in healthy subjects and intervene correctly in case of movement disorders.

Following the neuro-mechanical concept, movement starts as an intention to move, generating a cascade of events in the central nervous system leading to coordinated muscle activation patterns. Insight into these processes of motor control can be gained by a detailed study of the observed movements and accompanying force generation patterns. Research in Motion pays attention either to the body moving as a whole or by focusing on specific regions as the upper limbs, lower limbs or spine. Also the interaction between the body and the brain is an important topic of interest. Measurement and evaluation of normal versus abnormal human movement is a shared basic principle of the research line and is underpinned in the strong collaboration with the Multidisciplinary Motor Centre Antwerp (M²OCEAN).

This domain of movement analysis offers a great surplus value when acquiring insights into the mechanical control of movement and balance. It is an interdisciplinary field of science with links to both fundamental and applied research. It comprises a combination of various scientific branches such as biomechanics, motor learning, motor control, neuroanatomy and physiology and therefore fits well within the multi-disciplinary translational research field of rehabilitation sciences.

Background

Efficient movement is complex and requires an ultimate integration of balance control and movement coordination. An interesting approach to gain insight into these processes of motor control is the neuro-mechanical concept. This concept stresses the interaction between the neural processes and the biomechanical laws of motion that together shape the movement patterns. The movement outcome hereby depends on the interaction between the individual and its properties, the task demands and the environmental constraints. Individual constraints can be located at the level of the mechanical properties of the musculoskeletal system (action), at the level of central processing mechanisms (cognition) or at the level of sensory information processing (perception).

Skilled motor behavior is energy efficient and appears effortless, yet actually reflects the close interaction between the complex mechanical properties of the body and the neural control of the brain. Neuro-mechanics is the interdisciplinary branch of science that investigates the interplay between the neural control of movement and the mechanical behavior of forces acting within and upon the body. It is the interplay between the generated muscle forces and all non-muscular forces that determines the movement outcome. Newton’s laws of motion are applied to the moving human body in order to gain insight into this process of mechanical control.

The attractiveness of the neuro-mechanical concept is that a framework is provided that allows for hypothesis driven experimental research regarding control of movement. Neuro-mechanics seeks to understand how muscles, sense organs, motor pattern generators, and brain interact to produce coordinated movement. Attention is not only given to the movement outcome (performance) but also to the transformations occurring between neural processes and the mechanical behavior of the individual.

Applications of neuro-mechanics include ameliorating human health problems by exploring how processes such as e.g. ageing, loss of sensory information, central processing or neurological pathologies affect the movement.

Place within MOVANT

This research theme adds to the expertise of MOVANT by focusing on measurement and clinical evaluation of movement. Close collaborations are ongoing with the research themes focusing on pathogenesis and underlying working mechanisms (ProSens), exercise physiology (Lifestyle Exchange), and quality of life (Improved Living).