The easiness in which the central nervous system is able to perform its tasks while being such a complex system fascinates me. This especially holds since the neural communication happens at multiple levels and is the resultant of the firing behaviour of billions of neurons. At the same time, these massive populations of neurons should interact and be regulated in order to allow spatio-temporal coordination patterns in the central nervous system. Being trained as a human movement scientist, I mainly investigate the performance of the central nervous system from a motor control perspective, for example, during all-daily motor tasks as locomotion and postural control. Therefore, I mainly perform electro-encephalographic and electromyographic experiments in humans to study the underlying neural mechanisms of these motor tasks.
The project I am currently working on is related to the question: How do typically developing neonates and toddlers learn to walk independently during the first two years after birth? This project is supervised by Nadia Dominici and Andreas Daffertshofer, and is part of the ERC-funded ‘Learn2Walk – Brain Meets Spine’, in which we aim to unveil the neural origin of independent walking in children. During my PhD project, I specifically focus on the cortico-muscular entrainment and changes in biomechanical aspects in walking in neonates and toddlers as we measure electro-encephalography, electromyography, kinematics, and kinetics simultaneously.
Before I started my current PhD project, I completed the bachelor’s and research master’s program of Human Movement Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. During my research master’s graduation project, I investigated the short-term adaptations of the central nervous system underlying balance training, in which I particularly targeted the modulation in synchronized information transfer from the cortex to the muscles.
The transition from unable to able to walk independently is a remarkable step in the child’s development. Although the behavioral transition have intensively been investigated, the adaptations of the central nervous system underlying this change are currently largely unknown. In my PhD project, we aim to unveil the pivotal neural triggers underlying this developmental transition. We longitudinally follow a group of 20 typically developing infants and toddlers throughout the first two years of their lives. Electro-physiological modalities as electro-encephalography and electromyography are measured in order to identify the neural mechanisms. Simultaneously, motion capturing enables the possibility to correlate the neural changes to the behavioral level.