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Human motor system can robustly drive hundreds of muscles that allow us to sit and stand; walk and run, jump and throw - often without even paying attention. How motor system control these movements? How do we learn efficient walking or running ? Why abnormal gait patterns are adopted in many neurologic disorders? How different treatment strategies affect patients' walking ability? Can new technologies assist movement and help achieving better gait patterns? Unfortunately, we, do not yet have good answers to these questions. These are  some the questions that our research group address.        



Locomotor support

This Academy of Finland funded project aims to better understand organizational principles of normal and injured locomotor system. By uncovering previously uncharacterized locomotor support optimization phenomenon, we hope to better distinguish between gait deviations due to genuine neuronal deficits and those due to adaptive locomotor changes. Better picture of the determinants of normal and pathological gait will help to guide treatment planning in clinical practice. 

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This projects seeks to enhance motor control of gait in children with cerebral palsy by utilizing exoskeleton-augmented gait training paradigm. We study exoseleton walking in the motion laboratory and perform a randomized controlled trial to investigate whether exoskeleton-based gait training produces superior rehabilitation outcomes relative to conventional gait training. 

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Exploration of walking in someone else’s skin

This spin-off project of RoboGait explores children's and parents'  experiences and expectations of robotic gait training. The way robotic tecnologies are utilized in the rehabilitation context will be critically evaluated in terms of socio-cultural norms and sense of self and dis/ability. The project is in collaboration with the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki. 

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Lower extremity biomechanics and performance-injury conflict

Sports injury research links certain movement features to increased risk of injury.  However, some of these same features are also associated with better sport performance.  To better understand performance-injury conflict, we examine the relationship between lower extremity biomechanics,  previously  suggested injury risk factors, and performance outcomes in sport movements.  This project is done in collaboration with the Metropolia University of applied sciences

Selected publications

Kulmala J-P, Haakana P, Nurminen J, Ylitalo E, Niemelä T,  Marttinen Rossi E, Mäenpää H & Piitulainen H.  

A test of the effort equalization hypothesis in children with cerebral palsy who have an asymmetric gait. PlosONE 2022. 

Piitulainen H, Kulmala J-P, Mäenpää H & Rantalainen T. The gait is less stable in children with cerebral palsy in normal and dual-task gait compared to typically developed peers. Journal of Biomechanics, 5, 2021. 

Kulmala J-P, Korhonen M, Ruggiero L. Kuitunen S, Suominen H, Heinonen A, Mikkola A & Avela J.

Ankle and knee extensor muscle effort during locomotion in young and older athletes: Implications for understanding age-related locomotor decline.Scientific Reports, 2020; 10

Kulmala J-P, Kosonen J, Nurminen J & Avela J. Running in highly cushioned shoes increases leg stiffness and amplifies impact loading. Scientific Reports, 2018; 8

Kosonen J, Kulmala J-P, Mueller E & Avela J. Effects of Medially Posted Insoled on Foot and Lower Limb Mechancis Across Walking and Running in Overpronating Men. Journal of Biomechanics, 2017; 21: 58-63.

Kulmala J-P, Korhonen M, Ruggiero L. Kuitunen S, Suominen H, Heinonen A, Mikkola A & Avela J.

Walking and running require greater effort from ankle than knee extensor muscles. ​Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise. 2016; 48(11): 2181–2189

Kulmala J-P, Korhonen M, Kuitunen S, Suominen H, Heinonen A, Mikkola A & Avela J. Which muscles compromise human locomotor performance with age. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 2014;11(100).

Kulmala J-P,  Avela J, Pasanen K & Parkkari J. ​Forefoot strikers exhibit lower running-induced knee loading than rearfoot strikers.​ Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise. 2013; 45(13) 2306-2313​.


Our research work is made possible by:  

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