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Erica Casto - University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

The ISB Student International Travel Grant allowed me to visit the research group of Dr. Benno Nigg in the Human Performance Lab (HPL) at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada to work with experts on the analysis of electromyography (EMG) to assess coordination patterns of movement and muscle activation. Throughout the course of my visit, I was exposed to a variety of research techniques and questions through discussion with students and faculty, attendance of weekly seminars and group meetings.

With the expertise of Dr. Vinzenz von Tscharner and Dr. Mischael Asmussen, I was able to learn and understand the application and interpretation of wavelet-based filtering and pattern-recognition techniques for the analysis of surface EMG. I gained experience using these techniques on a dataset that had been previously collected at UMass, and since returning to UMass I have continued to explore and apply the techniques learned in the HPL. I look forward to presenting my work at the 2019 ISB/ASB meeting in Calgary this summer as it pertains to the role of muscle activation patterns in declines in mobility and physical function with aging.

Aside from working with a previously collected dataset, I was able to work with Dr. Asmussen in his current research projects, all involving the use of technology I would not have otherwise encountered. This included the use of force-instrumented pedals on a cycle and motion capture using an active-marker system. Further, each week I had the opportunity to meet with a relative expert on various equipment or analysis methods within the HPL in order to gain exposure to a variety of unique analysis and data collection methods. These meetings included demonstrations on the use monopolar current amplifiers for the measurement of EMG signal coherence, application and measurement of muscle activity using indwelling EMG electrodes, or discussions and examples for application of a variety of machine learning techniques currently used within the HPL.

I would like to thank the ISB Council for this rewarding opportunity that I otherwise could not have funded on my own. The professional training and research exposure I received during my time in the HPL will significantly enhance the design and impact of my dissertation project investigating the role of muscle coordination patterns on altered physical function in individuals with knee osteoarthritis compared to healthy older adults. My newly acquired skill set and the international collaborations resulting from this visit will prove invaluable for my growth and success as a researcher allowing me to make significant contributions to the field.

Christopher McCrum - Maastricht University, The Netherlands

Travelling and working internationally can be catalysts for personal and academic growth. However, long term studies or post doc periods in other countries, while hugely beneficial, are not possible for everyone. In my case, I recently became a parent, and the ISB International Travel Grant was an ideal way to gain valuable international experience planned in parallel with the summer vacation of my family. In February 2018, I was grateful to be awarded the International Travel Grant. This award allowed me to plan a project and visit Dr. Avril Mansfield and her Safe Independent Mobility Lab at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (TRI), Canada in the Summer of 2018, shortly following the World Congress of Biomechanics in Dublin.

In the last few years, my PhD research has focused on the stability and adaptability of walking, in particular in relation to falls risk in older adults. However, as I have progressed in these topics, two questions have continually arisen: 1) how do we most optimally train and improve stability control in general; and 2) how do we transfer research findings in healthy subjects to clinical settings with people at greatly increased falls risk, i.e. neurological diseases, and how do we balance effectiveness with feasibility? As Avril’s lab is specialised in precisely these questions using state of the art facilities and technology, it seemed like a great fit! Luckily, Avril also agreed!

Together we planned a project investigating the biomechanical adaptations in stance stability control during and following perturbation protocols with different intensity paradigms: increasing, steady and random. These different paradigms result in differing degrees of predictability and require different adaptations in stability to successfully cope with the task. This work is still ongoing in the lab.

In addition, I was able to develop my own research question to apply to data collected as part of a randomised controlled trial of perturbation-based balance training in people with stroke. This project is currently nearing completion. Our aim here was to describe the mediolateral stability of people with stroke during the first reactive step following anteroposterior perturbations to stance and investigate if mediolateral stability is related to the stepping leg used (paretic vs. non-paretic), whether multiple recovery steps are required to recover balance.

As well as these academic projects, I was able to gain first hand experience of how the knowledge of the biomechanics and motor control of balance gained from research is being applied to the clinical examination and training of balance and gait in patients with stroke and spinal cord injury. My deepest thanks to the clinicians and patients who allowed me to observe and interact in these sessions!

I would like to thank the ISB for this opportunity and thank Avril and her team for hosting me. It was a great experience that I will not forget!

Daiani de Campos - Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil

In November 2017, I was awarded the ISB Student International Affiliate Development Grant offered by the International Society of Biomechanics. Because of this support, from January to June 2018, I was involved in a project called “The non-intuitive mechanics of agonist muscles” developed at the Human Performance Laboratory - University of Calgary under the supervision of Dr Hezog. In addition to the research project, I had the opportunity to take four courses in the Faculty of Kinesiology and to participate in weekly activities organized by Dr. Herzog’s research group.

The project was a follow up of a recent conjoint study (Federal University of Santa Catarina – University of Calgary), in which we have shown, that, in a rabbit model, the torque capacity of isolated quadriceps muscles is approximately 20% greater than the torque capacity of the muscle when activated simultaneously with its agonist group (Fontana, Han, Sawatsky, & Herzog, in press.). With these results, some basic assumptions that are often made in Biomechanics are violated. Our follow- up project was designed to explore possible factors related to this observed loss in torque capacity during simultaneous agonist activation. Main factors analyzed were intermuscular pressure, changes in knee extensor moment arm and changes in fascicle length and alignment across conditions (simultaneous and individual stimulation).

During my stay in Calgary, besides the data collection including intermuscular pressure measurements, muscle tendon force, joint torque, and fascicle tracking with sonomicrometry crystals (data processing and analysis ongoing), we ran a parallel investigation regarding the effect of reducing activation levels on the difference between simultaneous and individual stimulation. Since intermuscular pressure is thought to be a determinant of the observed differences between conditions, our hypothesis was that this difference would become smaller with decreasing levels of activation. Interestingly, we found an opposite trend, in which the loss in torque generating potential during simultaneous agonistic activation became greater for submaximal contractions. These results were presented at the 2018 International Society of Electrophysiology and Kinesiology (ISEK) Congress and received the Student Travel Award. At the moment, we are finalizing a paper to be submitted to the Journal of Biomechanics at the end of this month.

I would like to express my gratitude to the ISB team for providing the financial support that allowed me to go to Calgary. All the experience and learning I acquired during my exchange period was of great importance to both my academic and personal lives. It was indeed a wonderful and experience with unparallel learning opportunities. Thank you very much.

 

 

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