Dr Dimitra Blana

Title: Research Fellow
Phone: +44 (0)1782 674423
Email: d.blana@keele.ac.uk
dimitra.blana@gmail.com
Location: Institute for Science & Technology in Medicine, Keele University, Guy Hilton Research Centre, Thornburrow Drive, Hartshill, Stoke-on-Trent ST4 7QB United Kingdom
Role: ISTM Research theme: Healthcare Technologies
Contacting me: By e-mail please
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I received my B.S. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the National Technical University of Athens, Greece, in 2001. I went on to earn my M.S. degree in Biomedical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, in 2003, and PhD from the same institute in 2008.

My research interests are in musculoskeletal modelling, and model-based design of rehabilitation treatments for movement impairment. 

I am very interested in science communication and public engagement with research. I am the Champion of Public Engagement for the Research Institute, I am a member of the steering group for the Community Animation & Social Innovation Centre at Keele, and I sit on the University Public Engagement Advisory Group. I also manage Make Keele, an initiative that aims to engage people of all ages with technology.

ISTM Research theme: Healthcare Technologies

The goal of my research is to help people regain or improve their movement following stroke, spinal cord injury or cerebral palsy. My main focus is developing biomechanical models, to help understand the mechanisms of movement disorders and design effective rehabilitation treatments.

Biomechanical models are powerful tools for the analysis of human movement. Our group has used them to examine the muscle forces typically used during activities of daily living (such as walking or picking up objects) so that the most important muscles can be targeted for treatment in patients with neurological disorders. I wrote about this work in an article for The Conversation.

We also develop real-time models that can be used as replacements for the actual human limbs (as "virtual" arms or legs) in the initial stages of developing assistive devices. For example, a paralyzed person can practice controlling their virtual arm before receiving a Functional Electrical Stimulation system that will enable them to move their own arm. Or, an amputee can practice controlling their virtual prosthesis before receiving the actual device.

An exciting area of research is developing patient-specific models. These will enable clinicians and researchers to make decisions about rehabilitation of individual patients, by providing predictions of how a specific patient would function following different candidate treatments. To personalize our models we use imaging techniques, biomechanical measurements and numerical optimization.

One of our goals is to share tools, data and models with other researchers in the rehabilitation community, to promote the use of modelling in rehabilitation research. To that end, I organised an OpenSim Shoulder Modelling workshop at the 11th Conference of the International Shoulder Group (July 14-16 2016, Winterthur, Switzerland), and helped run the 2017 European OpenSim workshop in Leuven, Belgium (February 6th - 8th, 2017). Moreover, our models are freely available on the open-access platform SimTK (Delft Shoulder and Elbow modelDynamic Arm Simulator). 

I work on applications of modelling to the shoulder and the upper limb with Dr. Ed Chadwick, and to the lower limb with Dr. Caroline Stewart.

Selected Publications

  • Blana D, Chadwick EK, van den Bogert AJ, Murray WM. 2017. Real-time simulation of hand motion for prosthesis control. Comput Methods Biomech Biomed Engin, vol. 20(5), 540-549. link> doi>
  • Blana D, Kyriacou T, Lambrecht JM, Chadwick EK. 2016. Feasibility of using combined EMG and kinematic signals for prosthesis control: A simulation study using a virtual reality environment. J Electromyogr Kinesiol, vol. 29, 21-27. link> doi>
  • Chadwick EK, Blana D, Kirsch RF, van den Bogert AJ. 2014. Real-time simulation of three-dimensional shoulder girdle and arm dynamics. IEEE Trans Biomed Eng, vol. 61(7), 1947-1956. link> doi>
  • Blana D, Hincapie JG, Chadwick EK, Kirsch RF. 2013. Selection of muscle and nerve-cuff electrodes for neuroprostheses using a customizable musculoskeletal model. J. Rehab. Research and Development, Article in press. doi>
  • van den Bogert AJ, Blana D, Heinrich D. 2011. Implicit methods for efficient musculoskeletal simulation and optimal control. Procedia IUTAM, vol. 2(2011), 297-316. link> doi>

Full Publications List show

Journal Articles

  • Blana D, Chadwick EK, van den Bogert AJ, Murray WM. 2017. Real-time simulation of hand motion for prosthesis control. Comput Methods Biomech Biomed Engin, vol. 20(5), 540-549. link> doi>
  • Blana D, Kyriacou T, Lambrecht JM, Chadwick EK. 2016. Feasibility of using combined EMG and kinematic signals for prosthesis control: A simulation study using a virtual reality environment. J Electromyogr Kinesiol, vol. 29, 21-27. link> doi>
  • Jagodnik KM, Blana D, van den Bogert AJ, Kirsch RF. 2015. An optimized proportional-derivative controller for the human upper extremity with gravity. J Biomech, vol. 48(13), 3692-3700. link> doi>
  • Chadwick EK, Blana D, Kirsch RF, van den Bogert AJ. 2014. Real-time simulation of three-dimensional shoulder girdle and arm dynamics. IEEE Trans Biomed Eng, vol. 61(7), 1947-1956. link> doi>
  • Marchi J, Blana D, Chadwick EK. 2014. Glenohumeral stability during a hand-positioning task in previously injured shoulders. Med Biol Eng Comput, vol. 52(3), 251-256. link> doi>
  • Blana D, Hincapie JG, Chadwick EK, Kirsch RF. 2013. Selection of muscle and nerve-cuff electrodes for neuroprostheses using a customizable musculoskeletal model. J. Rehab. Research and Development, Article in press. doi>
  • Chadwick EK, Blana D, Simeral JD, Lambrecht J, Kim SP, Cornwell AS, Taylor DM, Hochberg LR, Donoghue JP, Kirsch RF. 2011. Continuous neuronal ensemble control of simulated arm reaching by a human with tetraplegia. J Neural Eng, vol. 8(3), 034003. link> doi>
  • van den Bogert AJ, Blana D, Heinrich D. 2011. Implicit methods for efficient musculoskeletal simulation and optimal control. Procedia IUTAM, vol. 2(2011), 297-316. link> doi>
  • Blana D, Kirsch RF, Chadwick EK. 2009. Combined feedforward and feedback control of a redundant, nonlinear, dynamic musculoskeletal system. Med Biol Eng Comput, vol. 47(5), 533-542. link> doi>
  • Chadwick EK, Blana D, van den Bogert AJT, Kirsch RF. 2009. A real-time, 3-D musculoskeletal model for dynamic simulation of arm movements. IEEE Trans Biomed Eng, vol. 56(4), 941-948. link> doi>
  • Hincapie JG, Blana D, Chadwick EK, Kirsch RF. 2008. Musculoskeletal model-guided, customizable selection of shoulder and elbow muscles for a C5 SCI neuroprosthesis. IEEE Trans Neural Syst Rehabil Eng, vol. 16(3), 255-263. link> doi>
  • Blana D, Hincapie JG, Chadwick EK, Kirsch RF. 2008. A musculoskeletal model of the upper extremity for use in the development of neuroprosthetic systems. J Biomech, vol. 41(8), 1714-1721. link> doi>
  • Hincapie JG, Blana D, Chadwick E, Kirsch RF. 2004. Adaptive neural network controller for an upper extremity neuroprosthesis. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc, vol. 6, 4133-4136. link> doi>

I contribute to the teaching of various modules on the MSc Course in Biomedical Engineering. I am the module lead for MTE-30003 Engineering for Medical Applications, I lecture on MTE-40038 Medical Device Design Principles (Transducers and Amplifiers), and I run the lab-based half of MTE-40031 Biomedical Signal Processing (which involves practical signal processing using Matlab).

Awards

  • OpenSim Fellowship 2016
  • National Center for Simulation in Rehabilitation Research (NCSRR) Visiting Scholarship 2015
  • NCSRR Outstanding Researcher Award 2013
  • ISG - MBEC Young Investigator Best Applied Research Paper Award 2008
  • Medtronic Foundation Fellowship 2005-2006

 

Funding

  • Keele Innovation Fund 2017
  • Orthopaedic Institute / Keele ACORN PhD studentship: Biomechanical modelling of toe walking gait to inform the prescription of ankle foot orthoses in children with cerebral palsy, 2016 - 2019
  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NIH): Intracortical control of FES-restored arm and hand function in people with spinal cord injury, subcontract with Case Western Reserve University, 2015 - 2017
  • National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIH): Prosthesis Control by Forward Dynamic Simulation of the Intact Biomedical System, subcontract with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, 2013 - 2015

 

Professional Memberships

  • Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine, Full Member
  • International Shoulder Group, Secretary General (elected)
  • International Society of Biomechanics (ISB), Member
  • ISB Technical Group on Computer Simulation, Member

 

Scientific Outreach

I welcome applications from students who wish to undertake PhD or MPhil postgraduate studies.

My research interests are described under the "Research and Scholarship" tab.

Potential projects could involve using existing modelling methods to investigate the mechanisms or design treatments for a disorder or population that has not been studied previously. This would be suitable for students with a biomechanics or human movement science background.

A project in the area of patient-specific modelling would require competence in multibody dynamics, numerical optimization, and computer programming (mainly Matlab and C, but I would also welcome Python).

Our rehabilitation research group comprises engineers, scientists and clinicians, and we have state-of-the-art human movement laboratories. Our students have a range of backgrounds, such as rehabilitation engineering, computer science and physiotherapy, and come both from the UK and overseas. We have a student lab meeting once a week, which promotes peer collaboration and ensures regular contact with the supervisory team.

Please email me directly to discuss potential projects.