REPAIRS to improve rehabilitation through understanding the connection between perception and action

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Raoul Bongers, associate professor at the Department of Human Movement Sciences of the UMCG received a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovation Training Network (ITN) grant for his project entitled REPAIRS to improve rehabilitation through understanding the connection between perception and action (2021–2024).

Background

I am a human movement scientist working on motor control and motor learning; specifically, I study perception and action, the interaction between the two and apply this knowledge to rehabilitation.

About the project

REPAIRS takes a systems perspective to understand the interaction between perception and action, thus applying it to rehabilitation training to improve its effectiveness. To be clear: behaviour emerges from non-linear interaction among all the elements. For instance, when unit A and B interact, the behaviour of A in interaction with B is different from the behaviour of A when observed not in interaction. In rehabilitation, most approaches study only one element and not the interaction between the two. We study both, and translate that in rehabilitation.

The network

The core group of the consortium is composed of the people I know from my undergraduate programme, my work friends that I meet and talk to during conferences; then I included some of my past PhD students and post-docs who now work in other institutions. Finally, we looked for the partners that were still missing and contacted them. In our network, in addition to fundamental researchers, we also have clinical partners who focus on the clinical translation of the project, a technology partner who focuses on rehabilitation technology and philosophers working on the conceptual framework of the project.

The application

I had heard about this training grant for a long time, but it took me some years to see the advantages of such a grant. During a meeting last year [2019], I changed my mind when I realised that this call is bottom up; since my research is a niche topic, I understood that this would be a good opportunity. On the other hand, I have always been active in organising workshops and symposia, so it was not so tough for me to build the training. I really enjoyed thinking about it.

Tips

Listen to all the advices you get; get support through the Research BV because it is a very challenging proposal to write. They helped me with the timeline and with breaking the project in smaller manageable sections, so each month I could focus on a part. Start early and work on time. Keep in mind that developing an ITN project is really different from developing any other scientific project: you need to integrate the training aspect into the research. Since you need to spend a lot of time on it and it is a complex project to write, do it on a topic you really like and that motivates you. It is one of the most exciting projects I worked on. I would re-do it immediately!

Take-home message

Listen to the advices; get support; integrate the training into the research; write about a topic that motivates you.