Mirjam Pijnappels

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Van der Boechorststraat 9, 1081 BT Amsterdam
room MF A433

+31 20 59 88467

General Interests

My research aims are to understand the effects of ageing on neuromuscular and cognitive aspects of mobility (i.e., physical function and physical activity) and to implement this knowledge with assistive technology to maintain and promote mobility of older individuals in their own environment. In my research projects, I combine experimental and field studies to reveal determinants for mobility problems and falls on the short and on the long term, i.e. within seconds and over months.


I have contributed in the understanding of underlying neuromechanical, physiological and cognitive factors for balance control and falls and targets for interventions. I have contributed to the understanding of underlying neuromechanical, physiological and cognitive mechanicsms for decline of mobility with age, in identifying (individual) predictors for mobility decline (among which fall risk) and targets for intervention, in using technological instruments to assess and interact with daily physical function and activity and in improving mobility of older individuals in their environment.

Current Research

My current research approaches are experimental studies (neuromuscular and biomechanical analyses), epidemiological studies (prediction models based on longitudinal cohort data), implementation of technological devices (e.g. accelerometry, kinect, smartphones, smartwatches) and interventions on fall prevention and active ageing in daily life behaviour. Examples of my current projects are my VIDI project “Falling: a mismatch between self-perceived and actual abilities in older adults?” and the EU PreventIT programme.


I obtained my PhD in 2004 from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, based on thesis entitled ”Recovery from a trip in young an older adults”. I have been affiliated to the faculty and department of Human Movement Sciences at this university since to continue my work on the effects of ageing on balance control and falls. I was appointed as full professor in Mobility in Ageing in 2016. I gratefully received a personal VENI grant (2006), a TOP grant (2009), a VIDI grant (2014) and Aspasia grant (2015), all by the Dutch Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). I was a PhD supervisor in the Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate Programme Move-Age and currently am a co-PI in the EU Horizon 2020 programme PreventIT.

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  • Falling: a mismatch between self-perceived and actual abilities in older adults?

    Falls occur when we are exposed to balance threats and do not have the capacity to respond adequately. When our capacities decline with age, do we adjust our behaviour accordingly? Overestimation of ones own capacities may lead to risk-taking and consequently to falls in daily activities. Underestimation, by contrast, may lead to sedentary behaviour and ...
  • FARAO: Fall Risk Assessment in Older Adults from accelerometry in daily life

    In the FARAO project we focussed on predicting falls based on daily life gait characteristics obtained with one-week accelerometry data. Our system is based on miniature accelerometers (MoveMonitor) and has been worn by more than 300 participants. We found that gait quality measures of daily life gait have added value to predicting falls.
  • Keep Control: Efficacy of perturbation-based gait training in older adults

    The overall aim of this project is to test the potential of the such perturbation-based training by use of a newly developed dual-belt treadmill, with options for fast, ecologically valid trip and slip perturbations, triggered in various gait phases, to improve dynamic stability and prevent falls in older persons at risk for falls.
  • PreventIT: Early risk detection and prevention of functional decline in young older adults with ICT support

    In PreventIT, we develop mobile technology that enables early identification of risk factors for functional decline in younger older adults. Furthermore, in PreventIT we develop and evaluate a unique ICT-based intervention, delivered on a smartphone and smartwatch, with activities integrated in daily life and taking into account each person’s individual motivation, needs, and barriers.


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Excerpts of scientific work

For the complete lineup, refer to VU Research Portal

Excerpts of scientific work

For the complete lineup, refer to VU Research Portal