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Exercise and the Brain in Health & Disease: The Added Value of Human-Centered Robotics

The Strategic Research Program offers a platform for the collaboration between mechanical engineers of the Robotics and MultiBody Mechanics Research Group (R&MM), and human movement scientists of the Human Physiology and Sports Physiotherapy Research Group (MFYS) of VUB. R&MM houses experts in mechatronics and human-robot interaction. MFYS has expertise in evaluating the human response to robotic parts, fatigue mechanisms, neurogenesis and psycho-physiology.
Since there is a lack of basic knowledge on physical human-robot interactions, i.e. physiological responses (such as fatigue mechanisms, mental load, metabolic energy requirements of locomotion, biofeedback, and motor learning processes), and biomechanical adaptations (kinetics and kinematics during human locomotion) the first goal is to enrich the knowledge about the human response to the use of assistive devices (orthoses and prostheses). We further explore the physiological response to both lower- and upper-limb assistive devices, and lower limb prostheses. The collaboration will further elaborate on breakthroughs regarding upper limb exoskeletons, which is of interest for Industry 4.0 and healthcare sector.
The impact of human-robot interactions on fatigue mechanisms, especially the relationship with brain mechanisms of peripheral and mental fatigue is further investigated using cognitive performance, pharmacological manipulations of brain neurotransmission and electro-physiological data. Brain signal capturing and processing has a special interest, since it has been shown in literature that electro-encephalographic (EEG) segments related to movement might be an effective tool to control an robotic device (brain computer interface).

The program integrates two different research fields: 
1° From the engineering point of view: Development and validation of new robotic assistive technology,
2° From the physiological point of view: Human-robot interaction with respect to fatigue mechanisms and movement efficiency.
Cross-fertilization of ideas and knowledge between the two research groups will extend our knowledge on human-robot interactions. The program focusses on lower-limb prosthetics, assistive orthotics and exoskeletons to enhance human performance, and thus targets different end-users.

The objective of the SRP is to increase knowledge in the research topic Exercise and the Brain in Health & Disease: The Added Value of Human-Centered Robotics through the continuous boost to collaborate with experts in and outside the field. 
The fundamental and strategic research activities contains two main pillars:
1° Human-robot interaction consisting of mechatronic engineering and psycho-physiological response to assistive devices
2° Fatigue mechanisms involved in human movement in different conditions (environments and individual characteristics), and when using assistive devices. 

For more information:
02/629 27 53

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