Federolf, Peter

peter Univ.-Prof. Dr. Federolf Peter


Raum: HG-114 Tel:(+43) 0512 507 45862
email: Peter.Federolf@uibk.ac.at
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Research interests

Human movement is – from a mechanical point of view – the motion of a neuronal-network-controlled multi-body system. Multi-body systems are mathematically difficult to describe and tend to exhibit complex, highly non-linear (“chaotic”) behaviour. It is therefore, perhaps, not surprising that conventional approaches to studying human movement often yield unsatisfying results. Many important phenomena, such as stability or variability in the execution of specific movement tasks are still not sufficiently understood.

My research interests focus on the development of new concepts for the understanding of human movement and how it is controlled. My research is guided by three general paradigms:

  • A holistic approach: I try to include in my analysis all information recorded to characterize the movement, whereas conventional analysis approaches typically focus on extracting few pre-selected variables.
  • Focus on the boundary conditions and internal constraints that govern the execution of movement: The external mechanical boundary conditions, e.g. ensuring stability, as well as the cognitive-neuromuscular control system create a specific coordinative structure causing distinct interdependences between all variables characterizing movement. These interdependences can be expressed mathematically as internal constraints or as boundary conditions and can be determined by examining the variability structure in a movement task. I am convinced that quantitative investigations into this coordination structure will lead to a better understanding of determinants for pathologic or particularly skilled (sports) movement execution and to a better understanding of the rules that govern motor control and motor learning.        
  • A probabilistic approach: many studies on human motion over-interpret few individual measurements or mean values calculated from few trials. In my opinion, every individual measurement should be understood as a specific configuration of the system that can be observed with a certain probability. The assessment of this probability – rather than the calculation of means and standard deviations – will generally improve the understanding of human movement and will specifically be useful to better characterize the internal constraints and the coordinative structure of the movement patterns. This view will become particularly important for the assessment of injury mechanisms and injury risks.    

In recent years I have published a number of preparatory papers hinting at these approaches. It is my goal for the next 5-10 years to establish these views and analysis methods based on these views in the human movement sciences.