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Perception and Action in Complex Environments

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PACE (Perception and Action in Complex Environments)

Reporting period: 2017-04-01 to 2019-03-31

Each of us possesses an intuitive representation of what it means to drive a car in a busy street of the city centre, to catch a ball in a crowded playground, or simply to get dressed while maintaining proper balance. Although these actions appear effortless, they rely upon a complex chain of operations from sensory through motor signals and this is not yet understood. Moreover, when one or many brain areas involved in these operations are severely perturbed, after a stroke for instance, these complex cognitive operations are disorganized leading to important motor handicaps with a strong impact on the quality of life. Recent technological developments allow investigating human movement control in naturalistic environments using virtual reality displays and robotic devices in both healthy volunteers and patients. These technologies pave the way for a better transfer of knowledge from fundamental to clinical research in order to design more effective and faster rehabilitation protocols.
The PACE (Perception and Action in Complex Environments) research and training programme sits at the interface between basic science, technology and clinics, in order to unveil how humans control and adapt their movements in complex, naturalistic environments. Such a research agenda has major consequences for understanding how these actions are impacted by specific brain insults and how these impairments can be compensated for via new rehabilitation methods. Improving rehabilitation programmes for sensory and motor disabilities across the lifespan is a major societal challenge in Western countries and many obstacles need to be overcome. New technologies, such as robotics or virtual reality, offer exciting opportunities in the perspective to transfer state-of-the-art knowledge from basic research on sensorimotor transformation into the clinical domain. PACE has promoted the transfer of innovative, human-centered technologies between laboratories and clinical units, which is crucial to modernise and rationalise Health Care systems. To meet the societal challenge of European aging societies, it is crucial to train a new generation of researchers in a programme such as PACE where fundamental and applied/clinical research are effectively integrated via collaborative research, doctoral secondments and theoretical courses – in other words, one in which clinicians, neuroscientists, theoreticians and engineers can contribute around a well-defined problem: how humans acquire, lose and recover movement performance.
"PACE officially started on 1st April 2015 followed by a kick-off meeting that took place on 17th April 2015 in Marseille, in the presence of the scientific coordination team and all beneficiaries. Shortly after, the Network began the recruitment of a project manager (EPM) and of 15 early stage researchers (ESRs). PACE has held 4 Network Meetings and 4 Thematic Workshops. The first Thematic Workshop (TW1) took place in Marseille on 26-29 January 2016 at the Institut de Neurosciences de la Timone (CNRS–INT) and was organized around the topic “Making sense of a rich world: multimodal integration in complex environments ”. Then, the first Network Meeting (NM1) took place 22-25 May 2016 in Amsterdam, hosted by the partner Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU). The second Thematic Workshop (TW2) entitled “Active inference: Bayesian modelling of perception, action and the brain” took place in Lyon from 12-14 October 2016, and was organized by the partner UCL in collaboration with the “Labex Cortex”. The second Network Meeting (NM2) took place on 20-22 February 2017 in Barcelona, hosted by the partner Universitat de Barcelona (UB), and coincided with the mid-term review meeting. The third Thematic Workshop (TW3) entitled “Robotics"" was held in Genova on October 9-11 2017 by the partner IIT. The fourth and last Thematic Workshop (TW4) was organized by the ESRs with the help of partner Sheba and BGU in Tel Aviv, on March 10 to 13 2018. Finally, the third and last Network Meeting (NM3) was held in Durham on September 16 to 19 2018. The fourth and concluding Network Meeting (NM4, march 2019) was converted into a video-conference.
In parallel, the training committee designed and launched 4 e-learning modules. E-learning was used, throughout the duration of the project, to introduce students to specific research and transferable skills that are usually not available in individual training sites. The objective was also to contribute to shape a shared uniform background for all of the ESRs and to prepare them for the Thematic Workshops and Network Meetings.
The coordination team appointed an independent ethics advisor who has reviewed the local ethics consent forms and all other documents relative to the PACE-related experiments.
All ESRs have performed at least one secondment and several of them have already published articles reporting their experimental results. Other publications are in preparation. Most of the ESRs have now completed, or are about to complete and defend their PhD thesis. The results issued from PACE-related works have been presented by ESRs in several international conferences.

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Two research WorkPackages (WP1,WP2) were devoted respectively to basic and applied research. Their main impact is through communication to national and international conferences and publications. Several ESRs have presented their results in a broad range of international conferences in Psychology, Neurosciences, Human Movement Sciences or Rehabilitation Medicine. Some ESRs have already published their results in international peer-reviewed journals and several other articles are in preparation.
PACE fellows have had a 3-years experience at their host institutions as well as secondment institutions during collaborations and meetings. They greatly contributed to hosts training activities and to the intellectual, technological and clinical development. Their experience will have positive impact as they are now moving to different institutions, both academic and private to seek research positions.
With WP3 (training), all Thematic Workshops were open to a larger public and benefited respectively the Neuroscience community across Europe. Other students and neuroscientists were able to attend. The PACE network was further exposed to publicity. For example, PhD Students from Aix-Marseille University (AMU) and the Neuroscience community in Marseille attended TW1 and had the opportunity to exchange ideas with internationally known scientists from their field. Another positive aspect of the thematic workshops was the cohesion it created among the ESRs. They have organized discussion groups and communicate regularly among themselves via the Facebook group to share research material and news about scientific events.
Tools developed in PACE hosts institutions such as the E-learning platform and the INT Cloud will continue to benefit other local researchers and students in addition to the ensemble of the network’s participants. E-learning classes were open to other students from institutions of the consortium. Both PACE principal investigators involved and ESRs took care of informing other fellow students.
PACE network logo
PACE Network during the last network meeting in Barcelona
Workshop during the NM1