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School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science

Exploring ankle joint and feet tapping neuromotor control for rehabilitation and exercising with virtual reality and robotics

Primary Supervisor: Dr. Ildar Farkhatdinov (EECS)

Secondary Supervisor: Dr. Stuart Miller (WHRI, SMD)


In this Ph.D. project novel virtual reality and robotics-based human-machine interfaces for human neuromechanics research will be designed and validated. Specifically, a lower limb neuromotor control and the muscular-skeletal system will be explored to design a robotic interface for the ankle joint to study feet tapping muscular control and proprioception (including tactile sense).

Ankle joint and feet proprioception plays a crucial role in our daily activities such as walking, standing, driving, exercising, etc. Understanding biomechanics and neuro-control of ankle joint and feet movement are critical for designing novel medical assistive devices such as ankle-foot orthoses, robotic exoskeletons and wearable sensing devices to assist patients with neurological and musculoskeletal disorders and physical disabilities. In this project we will design a robotic interface and virtual reality software for ankle joint movements that will enable collection of kinematic and muscular activity data and to generate external perturbations applied to the feet.

The designed interface will provide an efficient tool to explore human lower limbs biomechanics and develop novel assessment techniques, exercising and training techniques. Existing research systems are not capable to render high enough mechanics perturbations and are very often non-back drivable. The primary supervisor has recently developed a new type of robotic ankle interface for applications in virtual reality and computer gaming. This experience and expertise will be used in this Ph.D. project to introduce such technology to lower limb biomechanics research in collaboration with the QMUL Sports and Exercise centre.

Together with biomedical engineers and clinicians, the team will develop a virtual reality based interactive system composed of training, exercising and assessment modules to better understand human ankle joint and feet movements. This research will generate important fundamental knowledge that will impact on treatment and prevention of neurological disorders and injuries affecting human gait, balancing and posture control.