Research Projects

The Motor Control Research Group led by Prof. dr. M. Lenoir focuses on three topics

  1. Motor competence in Flemish preschool and school children
  2. Planning and control in children with developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)
  3. The obes brain: relationship between motor competence, neurocognitive functioning and brain connectivity in obese children

The Biomechanics of Human Movement research group led by Prof. dr. D. De clercq focusses on the following subjects:

  1. Neuromechanical study of walking with a Wearable Assistive Lower Leg eXoskeleton (WALL-X)
  2. Motor retraining by real-time sonic feedback:  understanding strategies of low impact running
  3. Initial foot contact patterns in running: relation with speed and impact intensity
  4. Primary prevention of musculoskeletal sports injuries in Physical Education, Teacher Education and students
  5. Motor retraining by real-time sonic feedback: understanding strategies of low impact running

 

The Motor Control Research Group led by Prof. dr. M. Lenoir focuses on three research topics.

Motor competence in Flemish preschool and school children

Prof. dr. Matthieu Lenoir, Dr. Frederik Deconinck, Drs. Farid Bardid, Drs. Mireille Mostaert, Drs. Rozilee Wazir Mohd Norjali Wazir

Today it is common knowledge that the physical fitness of children has decreased over the past decades. At the same time, a similar downwards trend in motor competence, i.e. the ability to execute movements in daily life as well as in sports situations, has been observed in the past decade. This project aims at the a) documentation of this secular trend, b) the identification of the factors affecting motor competence (including cultural influence, parental and peer support, experience in sport and movement activities, age, gender), and c) the effect of intervention studies aiming at a long-term improvement of motor competence, for example the Multimove project in Flanders.

References:

  • Bardid, F., Rudd, J., Lenoir, M., Polman, R., & Barnett, L. (2015). Cross-cultural comparison of motor competence in children from Australia and Belgium. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 964, doi 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00964 (IF 2.560, 23/129, Q1).
  • Bardid, F., D’hondt, E., Descamps, S., Depooter, G., Verhoeven, L., Lenoir, M., & Deconinck, F. (2013). The effectiveness of a fundamental motor skill intervention in pre-schoolers with motor problems depends on gender but not environmental context. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34, 15, 4571-4581 (IF 2.735, 1/37 Special Education).
  • Fransen, J., D’Hondt, E., Bourgois, J., Vaeyens, R., Philippaerts, R., & Lenoir, M. (2014) Motor competence assessment in children: Convergent and discriminant validity between the KTK and BOT-2 Short Form testing batteries. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 35, 6, 1375-1383 (IF 2.735, 1/37).

 

Planning and control in children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)

Dr. Frederik Deconinck, Prof. dr. Matthieu Lenoir

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is a condition characterized by difficulties with the execution and learning of habitual motor tasks, such as handwriting, dressing and sports, in the absence of a known neurological or muscular problem (e.g. cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy). Our laboratory has been investigating perception-action relationships in this population for more than 10 years. While in the beginning the focus was on kinematics of fundamental movement skills (catching, walking, jumping) and postural control, our interest now lies into the role of planning and control in fine motor tasks. For this we investigate eye-hand coordination in aiming and grasping, in combination with motor imagery, motion prediction and executive function. We seek to understand the underlying mechanisms of motor learning in this population, with the intention to facilitate the interaction of individuals with DCD within their surrounds.

References:

  • Deconinck, F., van Polanen, V., Savelsbergh, G., Bennett, S. (2011) The relative timing between eye and hand in rapid sequential pointing is affected by time pressure, but not by advance knowledge. Experimental brain research, 213, 99-109.
  • Deconinck, F., Smorenburg, A., Benham, A., Feltham, M., Ledebt, A., Savelsbergh, G. (2015) Reflections upon mirror therapy – a systematic review of the effect of mirror visual feedback on the brain. Neurorehabilitation and neural repair, 29(4): 349-361.
  • Deconinck, F., Savelsbergh, G., De Clercq, D., Lenoir, M. (2010) Balance problems during obstacle crossing in children with Developmental Coordination Disorder. Gait & Posture, 32, 327-331.

 

The obese brain: relationship between motor competence, neurocognitive functioning and brain connectivity in obese children


Drs. Mireille Augustijn, Prof. dr. Matthieu Lenoir, dr. Frederik Deconinck, Prof. dr. Karen Caeyenberghs, Prof. dr. Eva D’Hondt

Recent insights based on studies conducted in our lab indicate that reduced levels of motor competence in obese children cannot be fully explained by the excess non-contributory body mass and difference in mass distribution compared with healthy-weight children. It has been suggested that obese children may have difficulties in the processes related to the uptake and interpretation of sensory information in order to plan and control movement (i.e. perceptual-motor difficulties). However, a detailed fundamental insight in the nature and underlying mechanisms of these perceptual-motor difficulties in obese children is currently lacking.
Therefore, the first aim of this project is to further document the prevalence and nature of perceptual-motor (dys-) function in a sample of obese children by assessing performance in fundamental aspects of perceptual-motor control. In addition, advanced neuroimaging will be used to map structural and functional connectivity and link them to behavioural measurements. The second aim of the project is to examine the effect of weight loss on behavioural measures and brain connectivity. Finally we hope that our findings can help to improve prevention and treatment programs for obese children.

Key references:

  • Augustijn, M., Gentier, I., Deforche, B., Tanghe, A., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., Lenoir, M., & D’Hondt, E. (2013). A comparative study of performance in simple and choice reaction time tasks between obese and healthy-weight children. Research in developmental disabilities, 34(9), 2635-2641.
  • Gentier, I., D’Hondt, E., Shultz, S., Deforche, B., Augustijn, M., Hoorne, S., Verlaecke, K., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., Lenoir, M. (2013). Fine and gross motor skills differ between healthy-weight and obese children. Research in developmental disabilities, 34(11), 4043-4051.
  • Gentier, I., D'Hondt, E., Augustijn, M., Tanghe, A., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., Deforche, B., Lenoir, M. (2015). Multidisciplinary residential treatment can improve perceptual‐motor function in obese children. Acta Paediatrica, 104(6), e263-e270.

 

    The Biomechanics of Human Movement research group led by Prof. dr. D. De Clercq focusses on the following subjects:

    Neuromechanical study of walking with a Wearable Assistive Lower Leg eXoskeleton (WALL-X)

    dr. Pieter Fiers, dr. Samuel Galle, dr. Bihiyga Salhi, Prof. dr. Wim Derave, Prof. dr. Patrick Calders, Prof. dr. Eric Derom, Prof. dr. Dirk De Clercq (PI)
    in collaboration with Prof. dr. Philippe Malcolm (University of Nebraska – Omaha)

     

    WALL-X is a tethered pneumatic powered ankle-foot exoskeleton which enhances walking by assisting the plantarflexors during push-off.  
    It realized as first to improve walking efficiency above the level of walking with normal shoes (~6% increase in efficiency).  Since then, other labs also broke the normal-walking barrier but optimization of the assistance properties improved walking efficiency with an additional 6% (total of ~12% increase in efficiency) ranking WALL-X amongst the best of all exoskeletons.  
    We also showed that subjects walk longer and carry more load when wearing the exoskeletons compared to walking without them.  So far, this study is the only that demonstrates a relevant increase in assisted maximal performance.
    Besides implementations in healthy adults, we applied WALL-X in elderly.  We showed that also in this population WALL-X assistance is feasible.  This enables us to focus on populations with reduced exercise capacity.  We will implement WALL-X as a rehabilitation tool in these patients expecting an increase in walking capabilities and therefore improve quality of life.


    Key publications:
    Malcolm P, Derave W, Galle S, De Clercq D (2013)  A simple exoskeleton that assists plantarflexion can reduce the metabolic cost of human walking.
    Galle S, Malcolm P, Derave W, De Clercq D (2014)  Enhancing performance during inclined loaded walking with a powered ankle-foot exoskeleton.
    Galle S, Malcolm P, Collins SH, De Clercq D (2017)  Reducing the metabolic cost of walking with an ankle exoskeleton:  interaction between actuation timing and power.
    Galle S, Derave W, Bossuyt F, Calders P, Malcolm P, De Clercq D (2017)  Exoskeleton plantarflexion assistance for elderly.

     

    Motor retraining by real-time sonic feedback:  understanding strategies of low impact running

    Pieter Van den Berghe, Rud Derie, Joren Six, dr. Pieter Fiers, dr. Bastiaan Breine, Prof. dr. Marc Leman, Prof. dr. Dirk De Clercq

    Running is a popular leisure-time physical activity though many runners encounter overuse injuries when loading is higher than the ability to withstand load (e.g. bone stress injuries). Epidemiological research identified impact loading as a risk factor. An ambulant device that registers the impact shock at foot contact and translates it into audio feedback was developed. Such real-time impact sonification could reduce the magnitude of the repetitive impact in high impact runners to an acceptable level. A group of trained runners with elevated impact intensity will undergo a gait retraining program to alter their running style (randomized controlled trial).  Contrary to most research in which instructions about running style and lower impact loading are given, we only provide the runner real-time audio biofeedback on impact shock during overground running sessions. A biomechanical analysis (3D kinematics-kinetics, tibial accelerations), assessment of running economy and measurements of muscular strength of the muscles situated around the ankle joint will provide insights in how people reduce their running impacts.

    top

     

    Initial foot contact patterns in running: relation with speed and impact intensity

    Bastiaan Breine, dr. Philippe Malcolm, dr. Pieter Fiers, Prof. dr. Dirk De Clercq

    In running, different initial foot contact patterns (IFCP) are possible:  initial rear- (IRFC), mid- (IMFC) or forefoot (IFFC) contact. In this project the relation between IFCP, running speed and impact intensity is investigated.

    When running at a range of running speeds from 3.2 to 6.2 m.s-1 we recorded ground reaction forces, plantar pressures and lower limb kinematics in a group of 60 endurance runners. We determined the distribution of the different IFCPs with increasing running speed. IFCP was determined with an adjusted strike index method using high frequent (500 Hz) plantar pressure measurements. Furthermore, the relationship between running kinematics and impact intensity was assessed.  This was done with a focus on the influence of IFCP.

    Bastiaan Fig 1 & 2

    Succesful public PhD defense on Nov 13 (2015). Link to PhD: http://hdl.handle.net/1854/LU-6999578

     

    Relevant publications:

    • Breine B, Malcolm P, Frederick EC, De Clercq D. Relationship between Running Speed and Initial Foot Contact Patterns. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014;46(8):1595-603.
    • Breine B, Malcolm P, Frederick EC, De Clercq D. Initial foot contact patterns during steady state shod running. Footwear Science. 2013; 5(suppl. 1), p.S81-S82.
    • Breine B, Malcolm P, Van Caekenberghe I, Fiers P, De Clercq D. Kinematic differences between (a)typical initial rearfoot and midfoot contact patterns. Footwear Science. 2015; 7(S1),p.S102-S103.
    • Malcolm P, Breine B, Frederick EC, Cheung J, De Clercq D. Correlations between strike index and 5,000 and 10,000 m performance in male runners. Footwear Science. 2013; 5(suppl. 1), p.S100-S101.

     

    Primary prevention of musculoskeletal sports injuries in Physical Education, Teacher Education and students

    Lennert Goossens, Sien Vercruysse, Prof. dr. Dirk De Clercq

    The MUSCULOW line of research covers a wide range of research designs;

    • mapping of the epidemiology, etiology and mechanisms of sports injuries
    • development and effect evaluation of programs for prevention of sports injuries
    • large-scale implementation and evaluation of the feasibility of these programs

    Our team is working on primary sport injury prevention, which takes measures for the prevention of sports injuries before the first signs of an injury occur. The focus in our primary injury prevention program entitled "No Gain With Pain" is on the active prevention strategies which make athletes stronger. A strong body is necessary to encounter the high demands placed on the body by sport participation. Significant attention goes to a behavioral approach relying on the basic concepts of the self-determination theory. By doing so, we attempt to autonomously motivate the athlete to execute these sports injury prevention programs. This combined emphasis on active prevention strategies and on a behavioral approach urges an intervention through mediators for the transfer of the principles of sport injury prevention. As for the mediators, we mainly work through physical education teachers and sports trainers, but also sports managers, parents, etc. are involved in the process.

    This line of research focuses primarily on the prevention of sports injuries among:

    • bachelor Physical education teacher Education students
    • Physical Education teachers

    This are “multisport" populations within the Physical Education and are hereby seen as a lever to reach a broader sports population, as well a sport-specific as a multisport population. The epidemiology, etiology and program development studies are always conducted in collaboration with the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy of the Ghent University. For the actual implementation of programs, all available actors from the target population are consulted. Current methods for sports injury registration are used as well as methods for biomechanical analysis of functional movement tasks.

    Key results to date:

    • Phd research Lennert Goossens:
      - The reduction of sports injuries in academic bachelor Physical Education teacher Education students (Goossens L et al. (2015) A multifactorial injury prevention intervention reduces injury incidence in Physical Education Teacher Education students. EJSS; accepted 1st of February 2015)
      - The implementation and demonstration of the feasibility of the programme in bachelor Physical Education teacher education students in Flanders. (Goossens L et al. (2015) A multifactorial injury prevention program in physical education teacher education students: Process evaluation using RE-AIM.)

      Preventie sportletsel 1

    This research resulted in the successful defence of a PhD by Lennert Goossens on Nov 23 (2015). Link to PhD: http://hdl.handle.net/1854/LU-6993882

     

    • Phd research Sien Vercruysse (Work Package 9 of the Flemish policy research centre on sports 2013-2015)
      - Optimization of an injury prevention intervention in Physical Education teachers (Vercruysse S et al. (2015) Development and optimization of an injury prevention intervention for physical education teachers. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy)
      - The reduction of sports injuries in secondary school Physical Education teachers. (Vercruysse et al. (2016) Effects of a multifactorial injury prevention intervention in Physical Education teachers: a randomized controlled trial.)
      -The transfer of sports injury prevention through the Physical Education teacher to the Physical education lessons. (Vercruysse et al. (2016))

      Preventie sportletsel 2

    These results are relevant to implement sport injury prevention in a feasible way for bachelor Physical Education Teacher Education students and Physical Education teachers. In addition, the program has also high transfer opportunities to the wider sporting populations, both sport-specific and multisport.