Stimulating the search of new coordination patterns in arm joints to improve arm function after stroke


Host Institution: University Medical Center Groningen

Department that hosts the PhD: Department of Human Movement Sciences

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


Project description

This PhD project aims to reveal which type of joint angle variability should be varied in rehabilitation training to improve functional arm movements after stroke. This PhD focuses on the interaction between joint angle coordination and visual information. It exploits the longstanding idea that variability in actions is helpful in learning new perception-action couplings. This project has a specific focus on how variations in joint angle coordination patterns contribute to the search for useful visual information. The variability in joint angle coordination patterns will be manipulated using a body-machine interface in which the mapping between joint angles in the arm and trunk and the movement of an avatar on the screen will be varied. This allows manipulating the number of joint angles involved in the control of the avatar, hence, enables to vary joint angles that are not free to vary and those that free to vary. Varying the avatar and its task enables manipulating visual information. Experiments start with examining participants not suffering from a stroke to reveal which joint angle variability helps in learning the new perception-action coupling. The most optimal conditions revealed will be tested with patients suffering from a stroke. Note that the mapping between joint angles and the avatar can be adjusted to individuals to accommodate different levels of disability.


People involved

Dr. Bongers

Dr. Smith

Dr. Reinders-Messelink

Dr. Travieso

Dr. Jacobs


Key publications

Tuitert, I., Bootsma, R.J., Schoemaker, M.M., Otten, E., Mouton, J.J., Bongers, R.M.(2017). Does practicing a wide range of joint angle configurations lead to higher flexibility in a manual obstacle-avoidance target-pointing task? PLoS ONE, 12(7), e0181041.

Valk, T.A., Mouton, L.J, Otten, E., Bongers, R.M. (2019). Fixed muscle synergies and their potential to improve the intuitive control of myoelectric assistive technology for upper extremities. Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation, 16, 6.

Tuitert, I., Golenia, L., Otten, E., Bootsma, R.J., & Bongers, R.M. (2020). Task constraints act at the level of synergies and at the level of end-effector kinematics in manual reaching and manual lateral interception. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 46(12), 1511–1526.


Specific required skills of PhD student

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

Sport and Exercise science


Experimental Psychology

Biomedical Engineering

Cognitive Psychology

Rehabilitation science


Project characteristics

Primary focus project Behavioral experiments with humans:

Able-bodied adults without disorders

Adults suffering from stroke

Methods Kinematics of arm and hand, 3D joint angles of arm, kinetics in joints, EMG of arm muscles, Uncontrolled Manifold method