Vision and mission
The increase in an elderly population challenges the current society for autonomous, healthy and happy aging. Due to the increasing life expectancy and the relatively larger proportion of older people, pathologies, including neurological disorders, become more common. In addition to medical follow-up (including pharmaceutical treatment), rehabilitation is often a cornerstone in the treatment of the frail elderly and persons with a neurological disorder. For example, through optimal rehabilitation, people could return to their home situation. The ultimate goal of rehabilitation is to enhance daily activities and to improve the quality of life. Although it is well known that being active and exercising has positive effects in these populations, many questions remain unanswered. Inquiring about the underlying reasons for recovery or improvement in daily functioning is important. Investigating the neurophysiological mechanisms of certain rehabilitation techniques also leads to 'evidence-based practice'.
Our team is active on the one hand in (i) applied clinical research, to improve the evaluation and clinical treatment of patients with neurological disorders and (ii) the fragile elderly (and its underlying pathologies), and on the other hand in conducting (iii) fundamental research on the relationship between changes in brain activity and motor performance, and training-induced neuroplasticity.
In clinical research, there is a clear focus on people with multiple sclerosis (MS), in addition to people with stroke and the frail elderly. A broader approach in the fundamental research to unraveling the underlying mechanisms (neural dynamics) of motor control and motor learning in neurodegeneration from healthy aging to neurological disorders like MS, stroke ... is applied.
Collaboration within the cluster ensures that fundamental (basic scientific) research is translated via translational research into clinical implications in terms of diagnosis and treatment.
Expertise within neurological rehabilitation involves research in
- Reliability and sensitivity of outcome measures to measure change in mobility, balance and arm function
- Arm-hand function: optimal therapy dose and modality for training; the relationship between trunk, scapular and arm movements
- Evaluation of dual task performance (the simultaneous performance of a motor and cognitive task) and the effectiveness of dual task training in addition with neurophysiological technologies such as fNIRS
- Combination of electroencephalography (EEG) with sensorimotor assessment of the upper limb after stroke
- Exploring the optimal dosage of upper limb rehabilitation in stroke
- The effect of cognitive and physical training modalities (exercise therapy, dance) on functioning and well-being
- The facilitating effect of auditory-motor coupling (cues, music) on learning movements and intensive stepping
- Fatigability during walking: underlying causes and implications for clinical practice
- Understanding underlying (biomechanical) parameters that contribute to walking fatigue via gait pattern analysis, energy consumption and activity level
- Understanding and describing the pain with its evaluation and effects in multiple sclerosis
- Technologies such as EEG and fNIRS in people with stroke and MS
There is a strong focus on technological-supported rehabilitation methods, and their implementation possibilities in clinical practice and home situation.
There are also clinical trials in neurological, immunological and neurophysiological research under the lead of prof. B. Van Wijmeersch in Rehabilitation & MS center Overpelt.
Expertise within the geriatric rehabilitation involves research in
- Benign Paroxysmal Position Vertigo (BPPV) in the elderly
- The impact of exercise programs on aspects of aging and fragility
- Therapy adherence of elderly with increased risk fall and of fragile elderly
- Impact of non-invasive brain stimulation on motor and cognitive functioning
- Impact of non-invasive brain stimulation on neuroplasticity
Within motor control / learning and neuroplasticity, research investigates the underlying mechanisms (potential of neuroplasticity to decelerate neurodegenerative processes) of rehabilitation in healthy aging and neurological patients by the use of non-invasive techniques. There is a special interest on an interdisciplinary approach to the underlying mechanisms for the development of new rehabilitation techniques that induce functional and / or structural neuroplastic processes.
- The effect of aging on intra- and interhemispheric interactions during bimanual tasks
- Underlying mechanisms of driving skills in the elderly
Applied methods and techniques
Standard kinesiology and clinical tests besides patient-reported questionnaires are used to get insight in changes of motor and cognitive functioning, motivation and impact of the disease. To investigate motor control / learning, higher cognitive control (switching, inhibition, multitasking, executive functions) neurophysiological research is combined with behavioral outcome measures.
Central mechanisms are investigated with non-invasive measurement techniques:
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
- Medical imaging (MRI)
- Neuronavigation (Brainsight)
- Stimulation using direct current (tDCS, TENS) and alternating current (HD-tACS)
- Electroencephalography (EEG)
- Surface electromyography (EMG)
Registration of movements
- Gait analysis (Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment - CAREN)
- Balance and gait pattern with movable measuring equipment (Gaitrite, APDM)
- Bimanual Tracking Task
- Multilimb reaction time tasks
- Serial reaction time task
- Motor learning processes using custom made sensors
Physical fitness and activity
- Daily activity (accelerometry like Actigraph and MOX activity trackers)
- Energy expenditure through indirect calorimetry (Omnical)
- Maximal exercise capacity tests (ergospirometry)
- Strength measurement (biodex dynamometry)
Applied rehabilitation research
- Technology for the rehabilitation of the upper limb.
- Driving simulator
- Dual task training by means of a developed adaptive, interactive tablet application
Valorisation and provision of services
The research expertise in (technology-assisted) rehabilitation is available via the RELAB service platform . Here, complex evaluations on body function, activity or participation level and workshops / advice on technology use for therapists / doctors and their patients in service provision are offered.
They also assist in various initiatives to promote active lifestyle for people with MS (for example www.movetosport.be) and to increase the independence of elderly living at home.
In addition, training courses / workshops on, among others, fall prevention, BPPV, Parkinson, active lifestyle are provided for persons in the clinical field through the REVAL Academy Platform.
Within REVAL there is also collaboration with other clusters around themes of rehabilitation technology, training, movement analysis of shoulder and arm movements, motor learning and qualitative research.
The neurological and geriatric rehabilitation research group works closely together with various research groups to develop virtual learning environments for rehabilitation and clinical use of sensors and software applications, including the Expertise Centre for Digital Media (Prof. Karin Coninx), the Institute for Materials Research (Prof. Ronald Thoelen), Transportation Research Institute IMOB (Prof. Tom Brijs) and PxL Research Smart ICT (Steven Palmaers).
The research group has various national and international collaborations, such as Ugent IPEM (Prof. Marc Leman), KULeuven Movement Control and Neuroplasticity (Prof. Stephan Swinnen), Maastricht University CAPHRI & NUTRIM (Prof. Annelies Boonen, Dr. Kenneth Meijer, Guy Plasqui) , VUmc Amsterdam, Anatomy and Neurosciences (Prof. H. Hulst), Adelante Centre of Expertise in Rehabilitation and Audiology in Hoensbroeck (Prof. Henk Seelen), ETH Zurich (Prof. Nicole Wenderoth, Prof. Roger Gassert and Olivier Lambercy), Georg-August University Gottingen, Psychology and Neurosciences (Prof. Michael Nitsche), Aarhus University, Sports Sciences (Prof. Ulrik Dalgas), and many others.
The research group works together with clinical centers such as the MS centers in Pelt (RMSC), Melsbroek (NMSC), Brasschaat (AZ Klina).
Prof. Dr. Feys Peter (Professor, Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy)
Prof. Dr. Meesen Raf (Professor, Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy)
Prof. Dr. Van Wijmeersch Bart (Professor, Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy; MD, neurologist)
Prof. Dr. Spildooren Joke (Professor, Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy)
Prof. Dr. Annemie Spooren (Rehabilitation Sciences, Occupational Sciences)
Prof. Dr. Koen Cuypers
Dr. Popescu Veronica (MD, neurologist)
Dr. Lamers Ilse (Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy)
Dr. van Dun Kim (Neurolinguistics)
Dr. Tedesco Triccas Lisa (Neurorehabilitation and Physiotherapy)
Dr Lousin Moumdjian (Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy)
Depestele Siel (Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy)
Ghasemian-Shirvan Ensiyeh (NC) (Psychology)
Goetschalckx, Mieke (Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy)
Jamil Asif (Biology, Medical Imaging)
Laurent Gwen (Biomedical Sciences)
Marinus Nastasia (Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy)
Raats Joke (Occupational Sciences)
Theunissen Kyra (Human Movement Sciences)
Van Geel Fanny (Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy)
Veldkamp Renee (Human Movement Sciences)
Verstraelen Stefanie (Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy)
Yilmazer Cigdem (Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy)