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Research Group Computational Biomechanics 

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Our research aims to improve the theoretical and experimental tools used to understand the process of balance. By developing more detailed balance assessments, we will be able to identify underlying impairments more accurately and use this information to develop effective assistance for fall-prevention.

Due to the complexities of analysing human balance, there is still much basic research to be done: the few mathematically consistent balance metrics that exist in the literature have received limited testing; few motions outside of walking have been analysed; the functional base-of-support of the human foot has not been characterized; and the interaction with existing assistive devices has received little attention.

More detailed information on our research can be found under Research. If you are interested in being part of this work, contact us!

Team

Dr. Lizeth Sloot

Lizeth completed her PhD thesis titled "Advanced technologies to assess motor dysfunction in children with cerebral palsy" with Prof. Harlaar at the department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam medical center. Working together with patients and clinicians, she found her passion applying movement analysis for rehabilitative purposes and worked on the application of dynamometry and an interactive gait lab to quantify neuromuscular impairments. Eager to take the step from identifying movement problems to restoring mobility in patients, Lizeth worked with Prof. Walsh at Harvard University to investigate the rehab potential of soft exosuits to enhance ambulation in post-stroke patients. At Heidelberg University, she shifted her focus to studying the degradation of motion and balance of the elderly, specifically the biomechanical evaluation balance during sit-to-stand movement with Prof. Mombaur and age effects on ambulation with Antwerp University. Lizeth’s research aims to improve the identification of motor dysfunction to order to inform the tailored design of assistive technology across patient groups. 

Lizeth’s research has been awarded three best paper awards (ESMAC, 2014; ICRA 218; ESMAC 2020), a postdoctoral fellowship (Ter Meulen, 2016) and a collaborative grant (HEIKA, 2020). Currently, she is the scientific lab manager of ZITI’s HCMR motion capture lab. Find out more about her research and academic profile.

Dr. Matthew Millard

Dr Millard completed his PhD thesis titled "Mechanics and control of human balance" with Prof. McPhee and Dr Kubica at the University of Waterloo. As part of this work, Dr Millard developed a model of foot placement and balance in 3D, completed stability proof for this model, established conditions for the existence of a balance restoring step, and developed a method to solve for the foot-placement location that restores balance to the body in 3D. Since then he has worked in the area of muscle modelling with Prof. Delp at Stanford, on foot-ground contact modelling at the University of Duisburg-Essen and the application of optimal control to musculoskeletal models with Prof. Mombaur.

Matthew’s research has been awarded a Best Paper Award (International Symposium on Wearable Robotics, 2018) and a personal grant (DFG Sachbeihilfe, 2016). He implemented the default muscle model in OpenSim: open-source software for musculoskeletal modelling that is widely used in the biomechanics community. You can read here more about Matthew’s research and academic profile.

Research

Injury caused by falling affects us all, but disproportionately affects older adults, amputees, and persons who suffer from pathological gait problems. Many of these falls can be prevented by offering specialized training to those with a poor sense of balance. Unfortunately, many people with a poor sense of balance go unnoticed because balance assessments do not evaluate recovery to large perturbations. This is in part because it is challenging to decompose complex whole-body reactions to see if the recovery movements were effective.

We have a promising method that allows us to evaluate complex whole-body motions and evaluate how off-balance someone is at any instant in time. Using this method, we plan to build an open-source database of whole-body motion as people respond to perturbations, build on existing clinical balance assessments and evaluate balance training regimes.

Both Matt and Lizeth are part of the HeiAGE projectIn this project, Heidelberg University aims to develop new intelligent assistive devices that are tailored to the needs of older persons, in order to address the challenges related to our ageing society. To inform the design of these devices, Lizeth performs biomechanical motion studies to evaluate age-related changes in movement in older adults of different frailty levels (WP1). Matthew is developing a balance monitoring system that will observe a subject’s body and assess the stability of their movement in real-time (WP2). They also support the development and biomechanical evaluation of the different assistive and training devices developed within the project.  

Facilities

We perform our motion capture experiments generally in ZITI’s Heidelberg Center for Motion Research (HCMR). This is a fully equipped motion capture laboratory. It has various systems to conduct measurements of human motion and dynamics: a passive motion capture system and an ambulant IMU-sensor suit, force plates, and a wireless muscle activity measurement system. We also work with the available devices to support or perturb movement, including conventional and robotic rollators, and an XY-robot to simulate rollator support for instance. Lizeth is currently the scientific manager of the lab. You can find more information and contact details about the lab here

How to find us

You can find our group in the Mathematicon building on the campus on Neuenheimer Feld: 

Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
Institut für Technische Informatik (ZITI)
Mathematikon B - 3rd floor - room L110
Berliner Str. 45, D- 69120 Heidelberg

Tel: +49 6221 5414 874

 

Email:

matthew.millard [at] ziti.uni-heidelberg.de

lizeth.sloot [at] ziti.uni-heidelberg.de

 

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