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IEEE Pulse. 2011 May-Jun;2(3):24-34. doi: 10.1109/MPUL.2011.941520.

Functional evaluation and rehabilitation engineering.

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Dipartimento di Bioingegneria, Politecnico di Milano, Italy.


Life is complex and all about movement, which allows us to interact with the environment and communicate with each other. The human nervous system is capable of performing a simultaneous and integrated control of 100-150 mechanical degrees of freedom of movement in the body via tensions generated by about 700 muscles. In its widest context, movement is carried out by a sensory motor system comprising multiple sensors (visual,auditory, and proprioceptive),multiple actuators (muscles acting on the skeletal system),and an intermediary processor that can be summarized as a multiple-input–multiple-output nonlinear dynamic time-varying control system. This grand control system is capable of responding with remarkable accuracy,speed, appropriateness,versatility, and adaptability to a wide spectrum of continuous and discrete stimuli and conditions and is certainly orders of magnitude more complex and sophisticated than the most advanced robotic systems currently available. In the last decades,a great deal of research has been carried out in the fields of functional evaluation of human performance and rehabilitation engineering. These fields combine knowledge, concepts, and methods from across many disciplines (e.g., biomechanics,neuroscience, and physiology), with the aim of developing apparatuses and methods fort he measurement and analysis of complex sensory motor performance and the ultimate goal of enhancing the execution of different tasks in both healthy people and persons with reduced capabilities from different causes (injury, disease, amputation,and neural degeneration).

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