The Biomechanics Laboratory is the home of research on the neural and mechanical aspects of human actions. Our focus is on how coordination of lower limb muscles enables upright posture and walking. We aim to determine how disease and injury alter that coordination with the objective of restoring and improving mobility.
Under the guidance of Dr. Kreg Gruben
, the biomechanics laboratory, occupying 5,000 square feet in 1081 Natatorium, includes motion capture systems, force plates, a custom treadmill that measures foot forces and body motion, instrumented pedals, and electromyography and data acquisition systems. Custom instrumentation is designed and built in electronic and mechanical shops housed within the laboratory.
We have described a preferred lower limb coordination strategy that is employed across various tasks. To isolate that strategy we used various kinematically-constrained tasks. By prescribing limb end-point motion with robotic devices and asking the subjects to exert force in their preferred manner, we can observe a coordination strategy that appears to be a fundamental component the ability to maintain an upright posture. Humans take advantage of that coordination strategy and its interaction with body mechanics to provide stability during walking.
We also discovered how the neurological injury cause by a stroke alters that control strategy in the paretic leg. The control alters the direction of the foot force making walking difficult. The direct effects of that misdirection and the compensations that can enable adaptive locomotion correspond well with behavior after stroke. Those observations suggest that therapy should be directed at an underlying cause of gait disturbance -- force misdirection
Research support comes from the National Institutes of Health, the UW Foundation-Virginia Horne Henry Fund, the UW Innovation and Economic Development Research Program, and the UW Graduate School.