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PhD Opportunity - University of Hull, UK

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  • PhD Opportunity - University of Hull, UK

    Title: Robotic Modelling & Control of Human Posture
    Supervisors: Dr Ming Hou 1 | Dr Catherine A Dobson 1 | Dr Natalie Vanicek 2

    1 Department of Engineering
    2 Department of Sport, Health & Exercise Science
    University of Hull, UK

    The Faculty of Science is offering PhD International Fees Bursary available for candidates applying for the project below. For more information, please visit

    The closing date for ALL applications is 31st May 2010.

    Please direct enquiries to Dr Ming Hou ( or visit the Graduate School (

    Project description:
    Walking is perhaps the most critical evolutionary development of mankind.  Postural control is central to human locomotion, keeping the projection of the body's centre of gravity (CoG) within the limits of the supporting area. Studying postural control increases our understanding of the postural adjustment mechanisms of the human body, and is an obvious therapeutic benefit to patients with balance and mobility disorder who commonly complain of problems of the vestibular system and dizziness.
    Falls can be a severe consequence of these problems, with fractures of the hip often resulting in morbidity incurring significant costs to health and care services.  It's not surprising therefore that postural control has attracted considerable interest from a wide range of scientific, engineering and clinical disciplines.
    Despite considerable research efforts, the current understanding of the workings of human postural control is still primitive.  There are two major theories of human posture. One is the six determinants of gait, and the other is the inverted pendulum analogy. While the former favours a relatively flat CoG trajectory, the latter is associated with a U-shaped CoG trajectory. Recent research has revealed that following a flat CoG trajectory consumes much more biomechanical energy than pursuing a U-shaped trajectory. Thus the inverted-pendulum analogy appears to be a very promising route for understanding human postural mechanisms, and has attracted much interest in postural control research in recent years.
    However, due to the inherent complexity of the human postural control, there is no simple equivalence between a mechanical rigid inverted pendulum and biomechanical body posture. The majority of the current research concentrates on a single inverted pendulum analogy with varying feedback strategies for postural control; but a few have also studied a double inverted pendulum analogy. While these studies reveal some essential workings of postural balance, both one and two-degree-of-freedom pendulum models are still too simple to represent human posture accurately. 
    For the single pendulum case, feedback control has been designed by assuming a linearised model of the inverted pendulum, and for the double-pendulum case no efforts have been devoted to designing feedback control. In fact, for a model with a double or multiple pendulums the standard assumption on linearization is not appropriate. This is because a totally upright posture (i.e. when all joint angles are zero) is not the optimum posture balance to avoid falls. Thus advanced non-linear feedback control is required - which is the focus of this proposal.

    The proposed research aims to develop a multiple inverted-pendulum approach to modelling and control of human posture with the following objectives:
    * Derive and analyse various 'robotic' models of human posture up to 4 joints of the main body.
    * Determine relationships between the basic biomechanical parameters of the human body and the coefficients of the robot models.
    * Establish the connections between sensory organs of human body and measurable variables of the robot models.
    * Define requirements of model-based postural control in terms of clinical gait.
    * Develop algorithms for the (non-linear) model-based postural feedback control.
    * Simulate robot models and feedback control of human posture.
    * Evaluate model predictions in comparison with experimental measurements with the Neurocom EquiTest balance assessment system. 

    Dr Natalie Vanicek
    Lecturer in Biomechanics
    Department of Sport, Health & Exercise Science,
    Don Building, Room 002
    University of Hull
    HU6 7RX
    Tel: +44 (0)1482 463141
    Fax: +44 (0)1482 463855
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