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Strategic Research Program Exercise and the Brain in Health & Disease: The Added Value of Human-Centered Robotics


  • Human Physiology and Sports Physiotherapy (MFYS): Romain Meeusen (PI), Kevin De Pauw
  • Robotics & MultiBody Mechanics Research Group (R&MM): Dirk Lefeber, Bram Vanderborght, Tom Verstraten

Main topics

  • Exoskeletons
  • Prostheses
  • Cobots
  • Brain-computer interface (BCI)
  • Human-in-the-loop control (HILO)
  • Projects, services to third parties (DAD), initiatives and laboratories

The SRP17 is a unique strategic Research Program combining fundamental and strategic research towards application driven research to valorisation, rehabilitation and industry. One of the key terms is human-robot interaction, where a human-centered design is essential and is achieved through the extensive collaboration between robotics engineers and human movement scientists. The main research focus is set at powered prosthetics for individuals with a lower-extremity amputation, industrial back and shoulder exoskeletons, industrial cobots, multi-agent teams, brain-computer interface applications and human-in-the-loop control systems. 

The iterative process of redesigning prototypes towards market-proof products involves thorough validation and evaluation processes in which physical effort and cognitive load are investigated in terms of biomechanical, physiological, social and subjective measures. Movement scientists gather, analyse and interpret these data in close collaboration with engineers, who focus on the development and validation of the robotics devices in terms of robustness and functionality using mechatronic test benches, and integrate the findings put forward by the movements scientists. 
Human-centered robotics is only achieved if mechatronics is being customized. This customization is achieved through the process of bringing electro-physiological measures coming from the brain (brain-computer interface) and periphery (human-in-the-loop optimisation strategies) into the loop with the robotics device. 

Besides product customization different valorisation strategies and benchmarking activities are key to allow effective and large-scale adoption by end-users. Both patients and healthy individuals are being targeted and the main goal is to improve the quality of life of all individuals. Injury prevention and the prevention of physical and/or mental fatigue are targeted in sports, industrial and rehabilitation settings. The wide range of research activities, robotics modules and target groups emphasize the importance of this program for society and economy.

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Most important scientific peer-reviewed output

  • Lathouwers E, Ampe T, Díaz MA, Meeusen R, De Pauw K. Evaluation of an articulated passive ankle–foot prosthesis. BioMed Eng OnLine 21, 28 (2022).
  • De Bock S, Rossini M, Lefeber D, Rodriguez-Guerrero C, Geeroms J, Meeusen R, De Pauw K. Impact of limited occupational shoulder exoskeleton assistance on overhead work. IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering 2022.
  • Dillen A, Steckelmans D, Efthymiadis K, Langlois K, De Beir A, Marulanda FG, Marusic U, Vanderborght B, Nowé A, Meeusen R, Ghaffari F, Romain O, De Pauw K. Deep learning for biosignal control: Insights from basic to real-time methods with recommendations. Journal of Neural Engineering 2022; 19(1).
  • Ghillebert J, Geeroms J, Flynn L, De Bock S, Govaerts R, Lathouwers E, Crea S, Vitiello N, Lefeber D, Meeusen R, De Pauw K. Performance of the CYBERLEGs motorized lower limb prosthetic device during simulated daily activities. Wearable Technologies 2021; 2: e15.
  • Crea S, Beckerle P, de Looze M, De Pauw K, Grazi L, Kermavnar T, Masood J, O’Sullivan LW, Rodriguez Guerrero C, Vitiello N, Ristic-Durrant D, Veneman J. Occupational exoskeletons: A roadmap towards large-scale adoption methodology and challenges of bringing exoskeletons to workplaces. Accepted in Wearable Technologies 2021.
  • Rossini M, De Bock S, van der Have T, Flynn L, Cianca DR, De Pauw K, Lefeber D, Geeroms J, Guerrero CDR. Design and evaluation of a passive cable-driven occupational shoulder exoskeleton. Accepted in IEEE Transactions on Medical Robotics and Bionics 2021.
  • De Bock S, Ghillebert J, Govaerts R, Tassignon B, Rodriguez-Guerrero C, Crea S, ... & De Pauw K. Benchmarking occupational exoskeletons: An evidence mapping systematic review. Applied Ergonomics 2022; 98, 103582.
  • De Bock S, Ghillebert J, Govaerts R, Elprama SA, Serrien B, Jacobs A, Geeroms J, Meeusen R, De Pauw K. Passive shoulder exoskeletons: more effective in the lab than in-field? IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering 2021; 29: 173-183.
  • Govaerts R, Tassignon B, Ghillebert J, Serrien B, De Bock S, Ampe T, El Makrini I, Vanderborght B, Meeusen R, De Pauw K. Prevalence and incidence of work-related musculoskeletal disorders in secondary industries of 21st century Europe: A review and meta-analysis. Accepted in International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics 2021.
  • Elprama AS, Vannieuwenhuyze J, De Bock S, Vanderborght B, De Pauw K, Meeusen R, Jacobs A. What determines industrial workers’ intention to use exoskeletons? Human Factors 2020; 62(3): 337-350.
  • De Pauw K, Serrien B, Baeyens J-P, Cherelle P, De Bock S, Ghillebert J, Bailey SP, Lefeber D, Roelands B, Vanderborght B, Meeusen R. Prosthetic gait of unilateral lower-limb amputees with current and novel prostheses: A pilot study. Clinical Biomechanics (Bristol, Avon) 2020; 71: 59-67.
  • Ghillebert J, De Bock S, Flynn L, Geeroms J, Tassignon B, Roelands B, Lefeber D, Vanderborght B, Meeusen R, De Pauw K. Guidelines and recommendations to investigate the efficacy of a lower-limb prosthetic device: a systematic review. IEEE Transactions on Medical Robotics and Bionics 2019; 1(4): 279-296.
  • De Pauw K, Cherelle P, Tassignon B, Van Cutsem J, Roelands B, Marulande FG, Lefeber D, Vanderborght B, Meeusen R. Cognitive performance and brain dynamics during walking with a novel bionic foot: A pilot study. PlosOne 2019; 14(4): e0214711.
  • De Pauw K, Cherelle P, Roelands B, Lefeber D, Meeusen R. The efficacy of the Ankle Mimicking Prosthetic foot prototype 4.0 during walking: Physiological determinants. Prosthetics and Orthotics International 2018; 42(5): 504-510.
  • Knaepen K, Mierau A, Tellez HF, Lefeber D, Meeusen R. Temporal and spatial organization of gait-related electrocortical potentials. Neurosci Lett 2015; 599: 75-80.
  • Knaepen K, Marusic U, Crea S, Rodriguez Guerrero CD, Vitiello N, Pattyn N, Mairesse O, Lefeber D, Meeusen R. Psychophysiological response to cognitive workload during symmetrical, asymmetrical and dual-task walking. Hum Mov Sci 2015; 40: 248-63.
  • Knaepen K, …, Lefeber D, Meeusen R. Human-Robot Interaction: Does robotic guidance force affect gait-related dynamics during robot-assisted treadmill walking? PLoS One 2015; 10(10): e0140626.
  • Knaepen K, Beyl P, Duerinck S, Hagman F, Lefeber D, Meeusen R. Human-robot interaction: Kinematics and muscle activity inside a powered compliant knee exoskeleton. IEEE Trans Neural Syst Rehabil Eng 2014; 22(6): 1128-37.