Research interests


As a studied sports scientist and former youth elite athlete, I was fascinated by how humans coordinate complex movements to perform them seemingly effortless, already early on. Understanding the principles underlying these movement coordination processes sparked my scientific interest. In that context, I am especially interested in the interplay of cognitive and motor processes and how movement coordination is affected by age-related changes in cognitive and motor functioning.


I mainly focus on two different research areas: motor decision making and joint action. Research in both fields is grounded on the concept of embodiment and targets the question of how movements are coordinated to account for the dynamics and uncertainties in the environment. Below, a more detailled description of my research can be found.


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Motor decision making

Background 

When we perform goal-directed movements, we have to plan and perform these movements in the presence of uncertain and dynamic environmental conditions. To account for that, movements seem to be coordinated to allow flexibility in movement execution by simultaneously granting stability in the movement outcome. This is acheived by a continuous specification of selected as well potential movements during movement planning and execution, influenced by changes in the immediate environment – a process referred to as "embodied decision making".   

In this line of research, I am investigating how age-related changes in cognitive and motor functioning affect the above mentioned "flexibility-stability trade-off"  in movement coordination. 

Methods 

Motion tracking systems (e.g. Qualisys, Optotrak, Zebris) to record the execution of goal-directed pointing and reaching movements. 


 □ Analysis of the amount and structure of movement variability (e.g. PCA, canonical correlation, uncontrolled manifold) to gain insight into underlying movement coordination patterns
 
 □ To elucidate neurophyisiological correlates of the motor behaviour non-invasive methods (e.g. EEG, TMS) are applied in cooperation with other project partners


 □ Tests of basic and higher cognitive functions to identify the relation of cognitive functioning to performance in simple and complex motor decision tasks

Related projects 

Robert-Bosch-Foundation:
“Trust your training: Improving movement stability in older people by manipulating cognitive uncertainty (during motor decision making) through cortical stimulation, cognitive or motor learning”
2015 – 2017

Technical University of Munich:
 “The influence of movement planning on movement variability in reaching movements: a TMS study”
 2014 – 2015

Related publications

Krüger, M., & Hermsdörfer, J. (2019). Target uncertainty during motor decision-making: The time course of movement variability reveals the effect of different sources of uncertainty on the control of reaching movements. Frontiers in Psychology, 10:41.

Joint action

Background

When moving in space, non-verbal interaction and coordination processes with other persons in the environment continuously take place to avoid potential collisions – a process referred to as "joint action". Joint actions impose special demands on cognitive and motor functioning of the interacting persons. Yet, the underlying principles of interpersonal coordination during human locomotion and the effect of age-related functional decline on joint action are only poorly understood.

Methods

Optical motion tracking to calculate kinematic parameters of persons‘ gait (e.g. speed and path adjustments, minimum distance) 


Modelling approaches to predict different outcome measures of movement adjustments (e.g. crossing order)


Questionnaires to assess the persons‘ perception of the interaction  

Related projects

Ministry for Science and Culture of Lower Saxony:
"Moving forward: developing multi-method experimental approaches to investigate human locomotion in real life to support lifelong self-dependent living"
2021

Related publications

Huber, M., Su, Y. H., Krüger, M., Faschian, K., Glasauer, S., & Hermsdörfer, J. (2014). Adjustments of speed and path when avoiding collisions with another pedestrian. PloS one, 9(2), e89589.


Knorr, A. G., Willacker, L., Hermsdörfer, J., Glasauer, S., & Krüger, M. (2016). Influence of person-and situation-specific characteristics on collision avoidance behavior in human locomotion. Journal of experimental psychology: human perception and performance, 42(9), 1332.

Further research topics

Sequence learning

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In everyday life, we often perceive and perform complex actions as sequences of single actions. Empirical evidence suggests a close relationship between age-related decrements in perceptual and motor sequence learning and age-related declines in cognitive functioning. Thus for me, sequence learning tasks are a very interesting experimental task for studying the interplay of cognitive and motor functions during movement production.

Physical activity

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Physical activity is widely known to be a relevant factor influencing e.g. health, psychological well-being, quality of life, but importantly also cognitive and brain functions. In this line of research, I am interested in investigating the effect of life long physical activity on cognitive and motor functions.