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Analysing action and adaptivity for improved neurocognition

The Neurocognition and Action – Biomechanics research group at Bielefeld University, Germany, is led by Professor Thomas Schack and investigates movements of biological organisms, humans, and technical systems in natural and artificial environments.

The main research focus is human movement and its adaptivity, which are analysed by using state-of-the-art research methods to investigate neurocognition, the cognitive-perceptual organisation and kinematic parameters of human motor functions.

Neurocognition, Psychology and Sport Sciences

Within the Faculty of Psychology and Sport Sciences at the Bielefeld University, the Neurocognition and Action Group primarily serves the disciplines of sports psychology, motor control and biomechanics with a specialty in the areas of performance diagnostics, mental training, media-based movement-learning, dynamic testing, sport anxiety and neurocognitive organisation of movement.

The latter has been emphatically investigated by the group members, in order to reveal the neurocognitive architecture of human motor action, namely the cornerstone of applied fields such as the mental coaching of athletes in high-performance sports or rehabilitation.

To facilitate smooth interactions with humans, a robot or virtual avatar should be able to establish and maintain a shared focus of attention with its human partner or instructor. Furthermore, it should be able to use neurocognition to react to commands delivered in a “natural” way, such as speech, gestures and demonstration.


To address research questions arising from these requirements, thirty research groups from five faculties have jointly established the Cognitive Interaction Technology Excellence Center (CITEC) at Bielefeld University, which is funded as a part of the German Excellence Initiative (DFG).

CITEC offers the  infrastructure to allow respective neurocognition research topics to be approached from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Among the key neurocognition-related issues being addressed are questions concerning how structured representations can arise during skill acquisition and how the underlying processes can be replicated on robotic platforms.

Working towards this common goal, we translate our findings from studies of human movements and related representation into theoretical models that can guide the implementation of corresponding features on cognitive robot architectures.

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Bielefeld University conducts top-level research in four strategic research areas which share common methodological grounds via three cross-cutting topics.

  • The material world;
  • The socio-technical world;
  • The globalising world; and
  • The mathematical world.

These areas are interdisciplinary by nature, each involving several faculties and central academic institutes.

They are backed by a number of collaborative research projects at the highest international level as well as by individual third-party funded projects.

Although the strategic research areas mainly focus on cutting-edge basic research, they also reach out into applications and society, true to Bielefeld University’s motto of “Transcending Boundaries”.

  • Human movement and adaptivity;
  • Neurocognitive architecture of human motor action;
  • Basic action concepts and building blocks;
  • Biomechanics and relevant research methodologies (motion capturing, eye-tracking, EEG, SDA-M, etc.); and
  • Interdisciplinary approaches for robotics’ assistance.

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