Improving postural stability after lower limb injury through joint action


Host Institution: Faculty of Human Kinetics

Department that hosts the PhD: Department of Sports and Health

contact: Dr. Passos (use this email contact only to request additional information, do NOT use this email for applications)


Project description

This project seeks to demonstrate that training standing participants on a manual joint-action task results in changes in individual participants’ postural organization. The goal is to develop and test a novel, joint action-based rehabilitation method for improving postural stability in individuals recovering from lower-limb injuries. This project embrace two levels of learning: i) task level, which mean that people can learn the task, improving performance; ii) postural level, which means that people learn how to (re)use a reconstructed lower limb joint structure. In the task two or more people jointly hold a large circular platform and manipulate its orientation, so as to roll a marble over the platform to a goal. Each individual’s bimanual actions not only affect the platform’s orientation but also the force-fields acting upon all participants’ bodies through their hands. The project focuses on the supplementary constraints imposed on postural organization by such a soft (upper-limb mediated) mechanical coupling between participants. Primary rehabilitation targets are individuals with disturbed proprioception at the knee joint following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR). Improving collaboration by training on the task is expected to result in increased between-participant complementarity, accompanied by task-induced reorganization of each individual’s postural system. Experiments with healthy participants allow quantifying and characterizing participant complementarity and postural reorganization in individuals. Experiments with different combinations of healthy and post-ACLR participants evaluate the beneficial effects on postural organization in clinical participants brought about by learning to functionally re-use the knee. The expected results are a demonstration of postural reorganization over learning to perform the joint-action task and a demonstration of improved postural stability after training of post-ACLR participants.


People involved

Dr. Passos

Prof. dr. Bootsma

Dr: Casanova

Dr. Oliveira


Key publications

Riley, M. A., Richardson, M. J., Shockley, K. , & Ramenzoni, V. C. (2011). Interpersonal synergies. Front. Psychol. 2, 38.

Passos, P., Milho, J., & Button, C. (2018). Quantifying synergies in two versus one situations in team sports: an example from Rugby Union. Behavior and Research Methods. 50(2), pp. 620-629.

Specific required skills of PhD student

Skill area
Language (writing) English
Language (speaking) English, Portuguese (preferred or willingness to learn)
Programming Matlab
Statistics ANOVA, multiple regression
Statistical programs SPSS
Background Human Movement Sciences

Sport and Exercise science


Cognitive Psychology

Rehabilitation science

Project specific knowledge Basics in mathematics


Project characteristics

Primary focus project Behavioral experiments with humans:

Able-bodied adults without disorders

Adults with ACLR

Methods Kinematics of upper and lower limbs to capture within and between participants adjustments while performing the join-action task.

3D joint angles of upper and lower limbs (more specifically the knees)

Kinetics in joints

Object kinematics (i.e., ball)

Force platform data

Uncontrolled Manifold method