Control of Balance and Locomotion Lab (COBAL)

The primary goal of the CoBaL lab is to understand the neural and biomechanical basis of human upright balance. The bipedal human is inherently unstable and needs a sophisticated control system to remain upright. We investigate how the nervous system uses sensory information (vision, inner ear) to estimate body dynamics and guide motor processes for upright balance control. The applied goal is to better understand patient populations with neurological disease and injury that lead to balance problems.

Individuals stand or walk in a room-sized virtual reality cave that allows precise control of the visual surround along with input from vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile sensory systems. Balance control mechanisms are then studied with regard to processes that fuse information from multiple sensory systems. Computational methods combine mechanisms of multisensory fusion with biomechanical investigations of multilink body dynamics to develop new techniques and “smart health technology” to improve mobility in patient populations with balance disorders including Parkinson’s disease, individuals with the loss of inner ear (vestibular) function, elderly individuals at risk of falling and athletes who have experienced concussion.

Behavioral, computational and genetic methods are used in conjunction with virtual reality techniques to study human motor control and orientation in simulated sensory environments.

Our multidisciplinary lab group, which includes physical therapists, kinesiologists, biomechanists, engineers and mathematicians, (and extreme sports enthusiasts) reflects the basic-to-applied range of problems we are investigating. 

Why This Matters

MAJOR HEALTH ISSUE

Upwards of $20 billion/year is spent in the US on injury related to falls in older adults. It is a major health care concern that will only grow as our population ages.

INNOVATIONS NEEDED

New treatments for individuals with balance disorders are needed that take advantage of recent advances in diagnosis, prevention and smart technology.

Volunteer for a CoBal Research Study

Discoveries are not possible without volunteers like you!

Research positively impacts the lives of people every day, but research needs YOU. Both healthy volunteers and participants with specific health conditions are needed to help answer important questions impacting the health of our friends and family. Join us to improve the health of others.