May 12, 2021 / Sina Schorndorfer

How does human movement work? Our institute was part of the Girls' Day of the University of Stuttgart

In the framework of the Girls' Day, 30 girls got an insight into the fascinating science of motion. For both, the girls and for our institute the event was a complete success.

On Thursday, 22 April 2021 Dr. Leonardo Gizzi and two of our doctoral researchers - Annika Sahrmann and Franziska Domeier- presented our work in the framework of University of Stuttgart to 30 girls, who wanted to get an insight on human neuromechanics. The Girl’s Day-initiative is a German-wide project, which aims at bringing girls closer to engineering and natural sciences.

“We are very pleased about the girls’ interest in our offer! As the Girls’ Day 2021 took place purely virtually, we received applications from all over Germany and we got “overbooked” twice in no time. We are planning to go bigger next year, and offer an even reacher workshop experience. Hopefully with a mixed formula of on-line and in-presence events. It was a great opportunity for us to show younger studens our daily work”. says Dr. Leonardo Gizzi, the head of our Neuromechanics lab.

But what exactly was the workshop about?

The main research task at our Institute is to explore how human movement works by means of experimental neuromechanics and neuromusculoskeletal modelling. Through modelling, we can describe the reality in a mathematical way and we can reproduce everyday conditions or observe phenomena, that are rare or even impossible to observe in reality. The aim is always to “predict the future” by joining theoretical and experimental knowledge.

“Why are we interested in movements, in general?” asks Annika Sahrmann to the girls’ group. “Because it is the only way, to interact with our environment. It is impossible not to move. If we can fully understand human movements, it would be also an understanding of the central nervous system”, she explains. “If we can understand, how our movements work, it could have an influence on, for example, developing protheses, or to improve therapies for stroke patients”.

The research branches at our institute include the fields of medical technology and bionics and combine (among others) experimental methods such as motion capture, ultrasound or electromyography.

Motion capture is a procedure, to collect and record motions via infra-red cameras and reflective markers, to analyse them with sub-millimetric precision. With these analyses we can improve medical software, perfect the gesture of professional athletes, animate movies and cartoon characters, or create gesture-controlled human-machine interfaces.

Like a sonar, with ultrasound, one can use super-fast waves to determine the position of muscles, tendons blood vessels and… babies (perhaps the most-known use of this technique!) in other words, we can use ultrasound to study how the human looks “from the inside”. In our lab we are working on building 3-dimensional model of muscles directly from the ultrasound images.

Electromyography, measures the electrical signals emitted by a muscle during a contraction. The main purpose of this method is to decode the activities of the lower motor neurons (the cells that forward the commends of central nervous system to the muscles), and diagnose neuromuscular diseases more precisely, or control power protheses. In the case of injuries or paralysis, EMG can provide information on the severity and chances of recovery.

Franziska Domeier proudly summarizes the event: “The girls got an insight into the fascinating science of motion. Now they could answer questions, such as “What happens on our body while we are moving?” or “Why can we stand and don’t fall down?” This is not self-evident. The positive feedback showed us, that the girls had a lot of fun and also learned a lot”.

All in all, the workshop was a complete success, although it was online. Thanks everyone for your participation and we look forward to welcome you next year in our lab!

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