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  • Neurocognition and ­Action - Biomechanics

    Social Motor Learning Lab overwiew image
    Social Motor Learning Lab overwiew image
    © Universität Bielefeld

Social Motor Learning Lab

Responsible Person

Dr. Cornelia Frank


Alessio d'Aquino

Hatem Elbanna

Kuo-Pin Wang

Two people with eye tracking equipment in front of a laptop
© NCA-Group - Universität Bielefeld

The focus of the Social Motor Learning Lab is to investigate the underlying motor and perceptual-cognitive adaptations that occur during the acquisition of complex motor skills. The research conducted by members of the lab includes examining the development of cognitive representations of motor actions, investigating the link between cognitive and biomechanical movement primitives, and exploring gaze behavior during motor action. Furthermore, we are interested in how humans learn to interact with other humans or robotic platforms. To help explore these topics, the lab is equipped with a state-of-the-art motion tracking system that allows real-time feedback of kinematic and dynamic parameters of human motion and a mobile eye tracking system which allows for tracking of eye movements and gaze behavior while moving.

Research Topics

PhD project: Mental representation and mental practice

MentR+P is designed to answer the question if and how mental representations of complex movements change over the course of practice, comparing practice by way of imagery and execution. Specifically, the project focuses on the impact of mental practice on mental representation structure in long-term memory. Building on empirical findings eliciting differences in novices' and experts' mental representation structures, we aim to extend those findings by showing how such mental representation structures develop over time. For this purpose, we use the structural dimensional analysis of mental representations both in and outside of the laboratory for questions related to sports, physical education and rehabilitation.

PhD project: Action observation, motor imagery and cognitive representation in learning a complex action

It is well recognized from research on the principle of functional equivalence and the simulation theory that executing, imagining, and observing a motor action are functionally equivalent, as each state of action draws back on the same action representation. The distinct similarities and differences between these states of action from a motor control and learning perspective, however, are still being debated. Recently, the quiet eye during motor action (i.e., final fixation of the eye prior to movement onset) has been identified as critical predictive, action-related marker, distinguishing experts from novices (between individuals) and good from poor performance (within individuals). Although its specific mechanisms are still under debate, researchers agree on the quiet eye to be an indicator for motor planning related processes. This project is designed to investigate the quiet eye across stages of action and skill levels. From crossing boundaries between the two research areas described above (i.e., quiet eye/ sports and movement science as well as simulation theory/ cognitive neuroscience and experimental psychology), we hope to gain insights into perceptual-cognitive aspects of motor actions across states of action and different types of learning, and as such to significantly contribute to the current debate in motor cognition research on the similarities and differences of executing, imagining, and observing a motor action.

PhD project: Exploring Gaze Behavior in Action Execution and Motor Imagery during Manual Interception

Team action in teams is a crucial component for successful performance. As team actions are suggested to rely on shared cognitions, it is essential to understand the perceptual-cognitive background of team action and to develop ways to effectively promote the functional development of shared cognitions. Based on most recent work in the field of shared mental models in teams, the goal of this project is two-fold. First, we aim at gaining insights into shared action representations within teams and across levels of expertise, and their relationship to on-field team performance. Second, we aim at developing effective means to promote functional shared representations and successful performance in teams. Team action imagery is considered one potential effective means for promoting functional shared representations, and as such may be a crucial factor for team success. By investigating both team action across levels of expertise, as well as team action over the course of learning, we hope to gain valuable insights into perceptual-cognitive aspects of team action, and their promotion by way of practice.

Lab Panorama

Lab Equipment

  • 3D motion capture: 6 x Vicon T10 cameras: 2000 Hz, 1MPx resolution
  • Mobile eye-tracking: SMI Eye Tracking Glasses 2 Wireless: 120 Hz, binocular
  • Memory analysis: Structural dimensional analysis of mental representations
  • Golf equipment: Artificial indoor green, golf clubs, golf balls

The lab space can be augmented by real world scenarios on two sides along the green

Motion Capture Video of a golf swing

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