MOVI-LAB PURPOSES

The underlying principle of the laboratory research endeavor has been to understand the neuromechanisms of human movements. Our group studies how the human movement is planned and controlled, especially in the context of ageing, movement disorders and sports performance. Our research’s approach consists of a combination of experimental, interventional and clinical studies aiming at unraveling the interplay between neural, perceptual and motor systems and considering the organismic, task-related, and environmental constraints. These approaches are developed to promote prevention, diagnostic, intervention and rehabilitation programs for improving the daily-life function in movement disorders population and ageing, and to improve performance during sports practice. To achieve those aims, the studies employ neuromechanical (e.g., motion capture tools, EEG and EMG) and perceptual (e.g., eye-tracking) methodologies to understand human movement and related disorders.

Fields of research

1) Neuromechanics and Rehabilitation applied to Movement Disorders and Ageing

The main focuses of this research field are on 1) impact of movement disorders and ageing in gait and posture neuromechanisms and adaptability, 2) rehabilitation, such as exercise, in older people and people with movement disorders. The primary focus is to investigate neural, sensorial and motor adaptations on movements, especially gait and posture, in people with movement disorders (e.g., Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease). Overall aims of such focus are centered on promoting safe and independent mobility in complex environments, avoiding falls and related issues. The knowledge obtained with such experimental and clinical set-ups is further applied in rehabilitation and training programs to improve and restore mobility in older people and people with movement disorders. Additionally, our group is trying to comprehend how old and neurological impaired populations can deal with limited capacity to allocate attentional resources during movement, and with movement asymmetry during walking and posture. This research approach is interesting to advance in prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of movement disorders and ageing effects, and to develop measurement tools that can be used outside the laboratory context environment.

2) Impact of Fatigue on Gait and Posture Neuromechanics

The main focuses of this research field are on 1) gait and posture adaptability to fatigue, especially muscle fatigue, 2) recovery of neuromotor system, mainly in concern to gait and posture, after fatigue. Our studies in this topic are centered on investigating neural, sensorial and motor adaptations as a result of the negative interference of fatigue (in peripherical and central level). As a target task, we are particularly interested in gait and posture, and how the individual adapts to the stability and movement efficiency after fatigue. The studies employ task complexity manipulations (e.g., obstructed walking, static balance in tandem position), different types of fatigue (e.g., mental and muscle fatigue) and sensorimotor handling (e.g., saccadic eye movements and asymmetry) to understand gait and posture neuromechanics and adaptability in young adults, older adults and people with musculoskeletal disorders. In addition, this field of research aims to develop innovative methods to measure fatigability (e.g., twitch interpolation) that can be used inside and outside the laboratory context. Fatigue research approach may be a useful model to study the effects of diseases and ageing as it impairs muscle torque-generating capacity without confounding factors like pain or swelling and related issues.

3) Biomechanics, Motor Control and Sports Performance

The main focuses of this research field are on 1) neuromechanics of sports movements required in sports context and associated performance, 2) training and rehabilitation strategies to improve movement characteristics and performance outputs. The primary focus is to investigate the effects of personal characteristics (e.g., sleep quality, cortical activity, blood metabolites, lower limb asymmetry) and contextual conditions (e.g., warm-up and recovery strategies, perception and sensorial feedback and training) in sports movement performance. The studies are accomplished outside laboratory field conditions and in competition settings (in controlled situations many times). This context possibility us to translate our results for the practice context and to extend the understanding of sports movement performance during real-world matches. In addition, the goal is to advance in our understanding of the relationship among sports movement performance and physiological and psychological parameters, improving the explanations for possible losses in movement performance during sports practice. This research approach is interesting as it may help to translate fundamental insights into controlled experimental and interventional studies, assisting in developing training and rehabilitation strategies to improve sports movement performance.