Research team

Lab for Equilibrium Investigations and Aerospace (LEIA)

Expertise

The ESA Artificial Gravity Expert Group (AGEG) is a group of experts appointed by the European Space Agency ESA to advice ESA regarding ground based and space studies related to artificial gravity. This group consists of 6 international experts from different fields (Cardiology, Nutrition, Bone, Neuroscience etc) coming from the USA, UK, Germany, Sweden, France and Belgium. We provide input to the ESA on protocols, studies, analysis methods, standardization of methods, interpretation of data etc. The group emerged from a ESA Artificial Gravity Topical Team which is a larger group of experts. I make part of this AGEG group since its initial set up in 2009.

One device that serves 2 goals: Feasibility of a combined cochlear and vestibular implant for deaf vestibular patients at high risk of falling. 01/05/2019 - 30/04/2023

Abstract

Falling is a socio-economic problem that has gained a lot of attention from different scientific fields in the last decade. A simple fall can have detrimental consequences like injuries, hospital admissions, or even death.1,2 Above 65 years of age, 33% of people fall at least once a year, and 25% of the falls in this age group result in hip fractures. In Belgium, the total cost for 14 960 hip fractures in 2010 was 308 million Euro, a number which is expected to increase with 26% by 2025.3 Therefore, falling increases the economic costs significantly. Gillespie et al. (2012) and Hopewell et al. (2018) concluded in their Cochrane systematic reviews4,5 that many interventions are not sufficiently capable of reducing the rate and risk of falling, or the fall-related outcomes, respectively. One group of patients at increased risk of falling are vestibular patients with permanent loss of peripheral vestibular functions.6,7 The current vestibular treatment options are not fully capable of restoring these functions8-14 so the risk of falling remains. Moreover, a vestibular dysfunction also increases the cognitive load6,7, as the patients need to consciously focus on maintaining their balance. As a result, social and academic abilities can be impaired and the quality of life can be lowered.15,16 Furthermore, the fall risk is augmented, as the patients are no longer capable of estimating possible emerging hazardous situations. Therefore, a treatment option capable of artificially restoring the vestibular functions is needed. A possible solution to this can be found in cochlear implants (CIs). A CI is an implantable device designed for artificially restoring the hearing of patients with profound sensorineural hearing loss or deafness by delivering electrical pulses to the auditory nerve.17 Literature reports have already shown that, occasionally, the currents from the CI accidentally stimulate the vestibular structures as they spread to the surrounding tissues.18-21 This is called 'vestibular co-stimulation through current spread'. In those reports, the vestibular co-stimulation is a negative side-effect of cochlear implantation but, as CIrecipients often have comorbid vestibular losses, the question arises whether such current spread can be modified so that the impaired auditory and vestibular functions can be simultaneously restored. Therefore, the main goal of the proposed study is to define whether a combined cochleovestibular implant (CVI) would be capable of functionally restoring the human vestibular and auditory functions simultaneously. This would be a ground-breaking and crucial first step in the development of an implant that alleviates the socio-economic burden of balance disorders and resulting falls.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

  • Lab for Equilibrium Investigations and Aerospace (LEIA)

Amelia Earhart Fellowship for Angelique van Ombergen. 01/01/2016 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

The overall objective of our research is to determine whether biomarkers of neuroplasticity in vestibular signal processing can be found using the model of microgravity. More specific the following objectives are set: a) to obtain knowledge on how astronauts adapt to microgravity at the level of the brain b) to use the model of microgravity to gain insight in which specific regions of interest are involved in space motion sickness, spatial disorientation, vertigo, and convergence of otolith and semicircular canal signals. c) to understand mechanisms of neuroplasticity in patients with vestibular dysfunction

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

  • Lab for Equilibrium Investigations and Aerospace (LEIA)

Space flight induced neuroplasticity studied with advanced magnetic resonance imaging methods. 01/10/2015 - 30/09/2017

Abstract

The overall objective of our research is to determine whether biomarkers of neuroplasticity in vestibular signal processing can be found using the model of microgravity. More specific the following objectives are set: a) to obtain knowledge on how astronauts adapt to microgravity at the level of the brain b) to use the model of microgravity to gain insight in which specific regions of interest are involved in space motion sickness, spatial disorientation, vertigo, and convergence of otolith and semicircular canal signals. c) to understand mechanisms of neuroplasticity in patients with vestibular dysfunction

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

  • Lab for Equilibrium Investigations and Aerospace (LEIA)

A Decision Support System incorporating a validated patient-specific, multi-scale Balance Hypermodel towards early diagnostic Evaluation and efficient Management plan formulation of Balance Disorders (EMBalance). 01/12/2013 - 31/01/2017

Abstract

The EMBalance project aims to extend existing but generic and currently uncoupled balance modelling activities leading to a multi-scale and patient-specific balance Hypermodel, which will be incorporated to a Decision Support System, towards the early diagnosis, prediction and the efficient treatment planning of balance disorders. Various data will feed the intelligent system increasing the dimensionality and personalization of the system. Human Computer Interaction techniques will be utilized in order to develop the required interfaces in a user-intuitive and efficient way, while interoperable web-services will enhance the accessibility and acceptance of the system.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

  • Lab for Equilibrium Investigations and Aerospace (LEIA)

Space flight induced neuroplasticity studied with advanced magnetic resonance imaging methods. 01/10/2013 - 30/09/2015

Abstract

The overall objective of our research is to determine whether biomarkers of neuroplasticity in vestibular signal processing can be found using the model of microgravity. More specific the following objectives are set: a) to obtain knowledge on how astronauts adapt to microgravity at the level of the brain b) to use the model of microgravity to gain insight in which specific regions of interest are involved in space motion sickness, spatial disorientation, vertigo, and convergence of otolith and semicircular canal signals. c) to understand mechanisms of neuroplasticity in patients with vestibular dysfunction

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

  • Lab for Equilibrium Investigations and Aerospace (LEIA)

Spaceflight induced neuroplasticity studied with advanced magnetic resonance imaging methods (BRAIN-DTI). 01/01/2012 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

Advanced methods in Magnetic Resonance Imaging, such as resting state functional MRI (rfMRI) and Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) will be used to study the effect of microgravity on the adaptive processes in the brain in astronauts. Preand post-flight data will be collected to elucidate changes in structural and functional brain wiring due to microgravity.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

  • Lab for Equilibrium Investigations and Aerospace (LEIA)

OTOLITH - Theoretical and experimental study of vestibular otolith function towards treatment of associated equilibrium disorders. 01/02/2011 - 01/10/2011

Abstract

The goal of the project is to exchange researchers with a complimentary expertise of the otolith system. Some researchers have a very profound theoretical knowledge of the utricle, whereas other have much experience in experimental data gathering of the utricular responses. By reciprocal exchanges of the researchers, the scientific knowledge of the otolith system would largely increase. The approach is based on testing the otolith system with the methods currently available and developed during the past decade in the labs in Antwerp and Berlin. Then these data will be used to set-up and modify models of the otolith reflex, as has been the expertise of the partner in Kiev. Subsequently, these modified models will be challenged by the partners in Moscow in other types of otolith stimulation, taking into account confounding factors such as gaze and proprioception. Integration of the information gathered by the four partners, during the exchange of researchers will provide an much more profound physiological model of the otolith system.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

  • Lab for Equilibrium Investigations and Aerospace (LEIA)

Multidisciplinary Motor Centre Antwerp - M²OCEAN. 22/07/2010 - 31/10/2016

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Research team(s)

Modelling of the human otolith system by means of unilateral centrifugation paradigms for the study of disorientation in patients with specific vestibular lesions and in astronauts. 01/10/2009 - 30/09/2011

Abstract

This is a fundamental research project financed by the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO). The project was subsidized after selection by the FWO-expert panel.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

  • Lab for Equilibrium Investigations and Aerospace (LEIA)

Ocular vestibular evoked myogenic potentials: a new vestibular test for clinical practice. 01/10/2009 - 17/02/2010

Abstract

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Support maintenance scientific equipment (Biophysics and Biomedical Physics). 01/01/2008 - 31/12/2013

Abstract

Support of the High Frequency Rotation chair that provides a unique stimulus to the human vestibular system so that the otolith compartments are stimulated unilaterally. This allows for the study of the gravity detectors side by side in humans. With this tool, fundamental knowledge of the vestibular system is obtained.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

  • Lab for Equilibrium Investigations and Aerospace (LEIA)

Investigation of the relationship between falling and equilibrium and posture in stroke patients. 01/10/2007 - 30/09/2011

Abstract

The development en validation of head and bodypositioning technology in strokepatients. The relationship between this posture and falling is investigated. In particular processes of equilibrium and neuropsychology are studied. Acquired knowledge is implemented in therapy and is subsequently evaluated.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Modelling of the human otolith system by means of unilateral centrifugation paradigms for the study of disorientation in patients with specific vestibular lesions and in astronauts. 01/10/2007 - 30/09/2009

Abstract

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

  • Lab for Equilibrium Investigations and Aerospace (LEIA)

SPIN-D -Validation of centrifugation as a countermeasure for otolith deconditioning during spaceflight (SPIN) and validation of a specific drug against g-level transition induced spatial disorientation and orthostatic intolerance (D). 01/01/2006 - 31/12/2011

Abstract

This project consists of 2 major parts. Part one (SPIN) serves as the control experiment for the 1998 Neurolab mission where astronauts were centriffiged in- flight and did not show signs of orthostatic intolerance nor impaired otolith-ocular function upon return to earth. In the current experiment astronauts will be evaluated pre and post space flight for their vestibular and cardiovascular deconditioning. This experiments will mainly be performed in Star City with the flight model of the VVIS (rotation chair). Otolith function and cardiovascular parameters will be monitored pre and post long duration flight. Part two of the proposal (D) is a clinical study where the effect of drugs is investigated on the vestibular and cardiovascular system in order to determine an appropriate countermeasure against spatial disorientation as well as orthostatic intolerance upon return into a gravitational environment. This study will take place mainly in the University of Antwerp. The final drug that shows the best characteristics will be administered to 3 astronauts prior to reentry from long duration spaceflight. These astronauts will be tested with the same protocol as those in part one (SPIN), i.e. prior and after spaceflight. Additionally, the 6 astronauts from SPIN will serve as controls for part two (D).

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

  • Lab for Equilibrium Investigations and Aerospace (LEIA)

A model of assessment and rehabilitation of patients after a unilateral vestibular deafferentiation. 01/02/2004 - 31/12/2005

Abstract

This project involves -1- the collection of normative data and the validation of a clinical protocol to assess postural control in patients after a unilateral vestibular deafferentiation and -2- the study of short- and longterm effects after administration of specific, customized vestibular rehabilitation program in the acute phase after resection of an acoustic neuroma.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

01/05/2003 - 30/09/2005

Abstract

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

  • Lab for Equilibrium Investigations and Aerospace (LEIA)

Risk factors for age-related hearing and vestibular impairment 01/08/2001 - 31/07/2003

Abstract

The aim of this project is the identification of genetic and environmental risk factors for presbyacusis and vestibular impairment in the European population. ATI.arge cohort of patients will be clinically investigated, environmental factors will be inventoried, and a DNA sample wil! be collected. Statisctical analysis of the clinical data and environmental factors wil! identify the environmental factors involved, and genetic analysis of the DNA samples will identify the genetic factors.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

    Investigation of the clinical relevance of high frequency stimulation patterns in the evaluation of the 3-dimensional vestibulo-ocular reflex in specific vestibular lesions. 01/01/1998 - 31/12/2001

    Abstract

    Head movements are measured by means of the peripheral vestibular system. The vestibular information is centrally processed to induce compensatory eye movements in order to ensure gaze stabilization. This reflex is called the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR). The VOR works optimally for natural head movements, which are in the case of man, fast movements (1-4 Hz). In clinical settings, the VOR in the dizzy patient is typically investigated at low stimulation frequencies (0.05 HZ). The main goal of the project is to evaluate the function of the VOR at high stimulation frequencies, being more physiological. The VOR will be analyzed in three dimensions (horizontal, vertical and torsional) in patients with specific vestibular lesions, such as acoustic neuroma and in patients with autosomal dominant hearing impairment.

    Researcher(s)

    Research team(s)