My research centers on the development of motor abilities in children. My main goal is to elucidate the neuromotor aspects underlying the emergence of walking, and to implement this knowledge to identify an optimal rehabilitation strategy to promote normal walking in children with neuromotor disorders, in particular cerebral palsy.
Over the years I have built a strong expertise in locomotor control and neurorehabilitation, through several studies that I conducted in excellent research laboratories: the Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology of the Santa Lucia Foundation in Rome, and the Experimental Neurorehabilitation Laboratory at the University of Zürich, and EPFL in Lausanne. This led to the publication of various articles in high-impact journals, including Science [2011, 2012] and Nature Medicine [2012, 2016].
In 2013, I was awarded the Ig Nobel prize in Physics “for discovering that some people would be physically capable of running across the surface of a pond — if those people and that pond were on the moon".
I was awarded the Suzanne Klein-Vogelbach -Prize for the Research of Human Movement prize in 2013, a 5-year NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) Vidi grant and NWO Aspasia Grant in 2015, and a 5-year ERC Starting Grant (European Research Council) in 2016.
I am currently working on the interplay between brain and muscular activity underlying the development of locomotor patterns in children, as well as on the biomechanics of human locomotion. From October 2015 I am project leader and principal investigator of the project “FirSTeps – The emergence of walking in children”, and from February 2017 I am project leader and principal investigator of the project ”Learn2Walk. Brain meets spine: the neural origin of toddlers’ first steps”. My research group consists of BSc, MSc and PhD students, who work on studies related to the development of walking from neonates stepping until independent walking in healthy children and in children with neuromotor disorders.
After a master diploma in Physics, I received my PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy, for work on the neurophysiology of locomotor development in children.
I held research positions at the Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology of the Santa Lucia Foundation in Rome under the supervision of Prof. Francesco Lacquaniti, where I focused on central pattern generation networks and on the development of locomotion in children starting from neonate stepping until the first independent steps in toddlers, and at the Experimental Neurorehabilitation Laboratory at the University of Zürich, and at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), in Lausanne, under the supervision of Dr. Gregoire Courtine, where I developed neurorehabilitation techniques to restore walking in animals after spinal cord injuries.
In 2015, I became Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Science at Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam, where I established my own research laboratory. In 2016 I was nominated Associate Professor.
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- The first independent step of a child may be small, but it represents a giant leap for its development. This project addresses the emergence of coordination patterns and motor primitives or muscle synergies in typically developing children and in children with cerebral palsy.
- We analyze brain and muscular activity in typically developing children and in children with cerebral palsy. We seek to unravel the reorganization of cortical and cortico-muscular activity accompanying the development of walking with the ultimate aim to design novel rehabilitation techniques for cerebral palsy.
- No activities at the moment.
Excerpts of scientific work
- Age-related differences in muscle synergy organization during step ascent at different heights and directions
- The human sensorimotor cortex fosters muscle synergies through cortico-synergy coherence
- Muscle Synergies in Response to Biofeedback-Driven Gait Adaptations in Children With Cerebral Palsy
- Modular control in children with cerebral palsy during the development of walking
- Muscle synergies during walking in very young children with cerebral palsy
- Engagement of the Rat Hindlimb Motor Cortex across Natural Locomotor Behaviors
Spatiotemporal neuromodulation therapies engaging muscle synergies improve motor control after spinal cord injury
Wenger, N., Moraud, E. M., Gandar, J., Musienko, P., Capogrosso, M., Baud, L., Le Goff, C. G., Barraud, Q., Pavlova, N., Dominici, N., Minev, I. R., Asboth, L., Hirsch, A., Duis, S., Kreider, J., Mortera, A., Haverbeck, O., Kraus, S., Schmitz, F., DiGiovanna, J. & 7 others, van den Brand, R., Bloch, J., Detemple, P., Lacour, S. P., Bézard, E., Micera, S. & Courtine, G., 2016, In : Nature Medicine. 22, 2, p. 138-145
The effect of EMG processing choices on muscle synergies before and after BoNT-A treatment in cerebral palsy
van der Krogt, M. M., Oudenhoven, L., Buizer, A. I., Dallmeijer, A., Dominici, N. & Harlaar, J., 2016, p. 31. 1 p.
- Editorial: Neuro-motor control and feed-forward models of locomotion in humans
- Decoding bipedal locomotion from the rat sensorimotor cortex
Pronounced species divergence in corticospinal tract reorganization and functional recovery after lateralized spinal cord injury favors primates
Friedli, L., Rosenzweig, E., Barraud, Q., Schubert, M., Dominici, N., Awai, L., L. Nielson, J., Musienko, P., Nout-Lomas, Y., Zhong, H., Zdunowski, S., Roy, R., Strand, S., van den Brand, R., Havton, L., Beattie, M., Bresnahan, J., Bézard, E., Bloch, J., Edgerton, R. & 4 others, Ferguson, A., Curt, A., Tuszynski, M. & Courtine, G., 2015, In : Science Translational Medicine. 26, 7, p. 302ra134 302.
- The neural origin of switches in coordination of arm and leg movement during walking
- Changes in the spinal segmental motor output for stepping during development from infant to adult
- Versatile robotic interface to evaluate, enable and train locomotion and balance after neuromotor disorders
- Restoring voluntary control of locomotion after paralyzing spinal cord injury
- Humans running in place on water at simulated reduced gravity
- Locomotor primitives in newborn babies and their development
- Locomotor body scheme
- Migration of motor pool activity in the spinal cord reflects body mechanics in human locomotion
- Kinematic strategies in newly walking toddlers stepping over different support surfaces
- Motor patterns during walking on a slippery walkway
- The many roles of vision during walking
- Changes in the limb kinematics and walking-distance estimation after shank elongation: evidence for a locomotor body schema?
- Development of independent walking in toddlers
- Control of foot trajectory in walking toddlers: adaptation to load changes
- Modular control of limb movements during human locomotion
- Coordination of locomotion with voluntary movements in humans
- Kinematics in newly walking toddlers does not depend upon postural stability
- Development of pendulum mechanism and kinematic coordination from the first unsupported steps in toddlers