CORDIS - EU research results

Perception and Action in Health and Disease

Final Report Summary - HEALTHPAC (Perception and Action in Health and Disease)

With the strong growth of the aging population, sensory-motor loss and neurodegenerative disorders will affect an increasing number of Europeans, which will have huge impact on society. HealthPAC is an integrated, international and interdisciplinary network of renowned perception-action (PAC) research labs, clinical departments, and industry. Its mission is to understand the neural mechanisms of sensory-motor control and its disorders, and to utilize this knowledge to enhance the quality of life.
Our network trains ESRs to become excellent PAC-scientists who: (i) set up and perform high-quality research in sensory-motor neuroscience, (ii) can translate and apply their knowledge to clinics and rehabilitation centers, and (iii) understand the processes to develop innovative products that improve the quality of life in health and disease.
Students participate in research training programs, tailored to their individual interests, and are brought in intensive contact with European companies and institutes to improve and extend their future career prospects. The PAC team of the Donders Institute (DI) is particularly suited to organize this training program. It studies sensory-motor integration in an interdisciplinary setting with unique state-of-the-art methodologies in research labs and clinical departments of eleven established neuroscientists. Moreover, the DI has a dedicated Graduate Program in which ESRs are trained in advanced research and analysis techniques, and acquire an academic and ethical attitude towards applied systems neuroscience.
Associate Partners contribute relevant knowledge from the private sector by teaching HealthPAC students about sensory-motor related product development, legal issues, management and marketing, and offer well-defined research secondments. Students are intensively mentored and prepared for their future careers, either as a PAC-scientist in an academic or clinical setting, or as innovative researcher in the private sector.

Overall progress of the project, Jan 1, 2014 - Dec 31, 2017

In the first period (2014/2015) all ESRs received substantial training within six different categories: (i) conceptual training courses on a variety of neuroscience and science topics, which were tailored to their own preferences and backgrounds, (ii) soft-skill training courses, which enhance their communicative (verbal and written) and academic skills, (iii) Intersectoral trainings, offered by companies, on entrepreneurship, ethics, marketing issues, etc.; (iv) visits to Conferences, seminars and workshops, both locally (in the NL) and internationally (Europe and USA). (v) a 2-day visit at Neurovation, "Technological applications in Neurocognition" (Utrecht, NL). (vi) Intensive training activities at the 3-day HealthPAC WinterSchool (January 2015), and during our highly successful 11-day International HealthPAC SummerSchool on Computational SensoriMotor Control (CoSMo), which was organised in collaboration with the Canadian-USA network on sensorimotor neuroscience (July 2015, Groesbeek, NL). In November 2015, we had our Midterm Review in Huize Klein-Heyendaal in Nijmegen.

In the second period (2016/2017), the conceptual training programs (courses, soft-skill trainings) of most ESRs had been completed, and the major focus has been on finishing their first research projects, write publications, and carry out Secondments at Associated Partners. In April 2017 our ESRs organized the 4-day HealthPAC Business School, which was open to 30 participants (including 15 externals), and was organized in collaboration with students from the Technical University Eindhoven. The school was split into two 2-day meetings (about a month apart, and with explicit home assignments), focussing primarily on active training of intersectoral skills and entrepreneurship. In the school, experts from our Associated Partner at Philips, entrepreneurial experts from the Eindhoven High-Tech Campus, and from Radboud University, trained the participants in an intensive, interactive and creative program. On HealthPAC's website, a brief video clip illustrates the idea of the Business school.

The project has now formally ended, with no major delays (all Milestones and Deliverables described in Annex 1 have been met; see Periodic Report 2). All 500 researcher months have been fulfilled (Dec 31, 2017). Our ESRs (7 males, 7 females, from 10 different countries on five continents) represent a wide diversity of nationalities, and various cultural backgrounds. In defining training and supervision plans (TSP) and research goals, the ESRs' personal preferences and backgrounds have been leading. All ESRs have fulfilled one or more secondments in an international and/or intersectional environment. All ESRs worked on their research projects under the supervision of their responsible PI(s). In 2018 most ESRs will obtain their PhD at the Radboud University; some will obtain the PhD in early 2019. The salaries for the final, fourth ESR year, are fully financed by RUN.

The ESRs are currently finishing their last experiments, and work on their publications and PhD theses. So far, 12 publications have appeared in peer-reviewed journals, and another 12 publications have been (re)submitted (Deliverable D21); 30 papers are close to being submitted, or currently in preparation (Total foreseen number of peer-reviewed publications: N=54). Project descriptions of all ESRs, with illustrative examples of their results, can be found on HealthPAC's web page, which is found at

Brief description of the results from some of our ESR projects:
ESR01 finalized four experimental projects on auditory plasticity, adaptation and neural encoding. A research paper on spectral cue sound-localization has been revised for PNAS (impact factor 11), and one paper on sound-localization plasticity is ready for submission to Nature Communications.
ESR03 submitted a paper on perceptual decisions in the elderly to Current Biology (IF: 14), and currently prepares a paper on sensory perception in the elderly for Nature Communications.
ESR05 published a paper on Useful Field of Vision in the Journal of Vision, and prepares two papers (one on discomfort glare, another on a computational model) that result from her secondment at Philips Lighting. She did her international secondment at the Bionics Institute in Melbourne, to learn about retinal patients.
ESR06 published a paper on impaired visual competition in patients with visual field defects in the Journal of Vision.
ESR07 worked on sensorimotor trade-off in Parkinson's Disease patients, and submitted a paper to PLoS One. She did a Secondment at the Brain and Mind Institute in London, Western Ontario, and she helped organise the HP Business School in March/April 2017.
ESR08 measured EMG activity in a transcranial magnetic stimulation protocol from 15 subjects, and analysed the data when on Secondment in the Diedrichsen lab, London, Ont. A paper will be submitted to Neuron (IF: 14).
ESR10 collected data from bilateral cochlear implant patients (results prepared for two publications). He obtained a personal travel grant for an additional Secondment in London, Ontario (Sept 2017), and submitted a paper on real-time vocoders to Trends in Hearing. He trained a master student in Argentina on impaired hearing studies, and currently prepares a patent for a better bone-conduction stimulation protocol.
ESR12 finished linear acceleration visual-vestibular experiments in healthy subjects, published a paper on eye movements in darkness in eNeuro, and a paper on perceived verticality during linear acceleration in J Neurophysiology.
ESR13 finished two adaptive studies on correcting movements to external perturbations, with muscle vibration (Milestone M11) and vestibular (galvanic) perturbations. Published a paper in J Neurophysiology (2017) on vestibular feedback.
ESR14 completed experiments on work-related musculoskeletal disorders (e.g. repetitive stress injury) in two projects, and published a paper in Motor Control, a second and third paper are being resubmitted.

Expected final results of HealthPAC:
At the end of the grant period, HealthPAC has delivered a responsible, ethically aware, and broadly trained interdisciplinary group of young researchers, who will significantly contribute to alleviate the burdens of sensory-motor impairments of our citizens in their future careers. Roughly half of the ESRs will pursue a career in academics, as a postdoctoral researcher in the sensorimotor health domain, but the other half has indicated to pursue a career in the health or information/data-processing industry. During 2018, the consortium will have published well over 40 peer-reviewed research papers in the sensory-motor health domain, and it has created an international (even intercontinental) network of sensory-motor research groups, with tight and lasting contacts to 15 European SME's and hospitals, as well as new cross-continental (USA, Canada, Australia) connections. HealthPAC's impact will outlast the Marie-Curie funding period, by these established new contacts and the strengthened existing ones, and will initiate novel project collaborations in the H2020 programme. To that end, a new ITN follow-up proposal (BraInnovate) has been submitted in January, 2018.

Contact: Project coordinator, prof. dr. John van Opstal,
Project website: