Behavioral Biomechanics Laboratory

“The Behavioral Biomechanics Laboratory studies how emotions and mood disorders affect body movement. This unique, interdisciplinary approach combines biomechanical, psychological and psychiatric methods to uncover how movement, emotions, and mental health are all related. Our goal is to develop new tools to help clinicians evaluate mental health and for patients to maintain well-being.”
Dr. Melissa Gross, Director and Associate Professor of Movement Science

Students in the Behavioral Biomechanics Laboratory


CCRB 1240
401 Washtenaw Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2214
(734) 763-0013
(734) 936-1925



Motor behavior in bipolar disorder

The purpose of this study is to examine the effect of mood phase on body movements of individuals with bipolar disorder. Assessment of body movements in individuals with mood disorders is important for diagnosis, but very few quantitative data exist on the effect of hypomanic, euthymic and depressed phases in bipolar disorder of mood on body movements. In this study, we asked healthy individuals and individuals with bipolar disorder to perform ordinary movements like walking and getting up out a chair. Movement data were collected using motion capture technology and force data were collected using force plates in the lab floor. Participants also completed questionnaires about their mood, and these data are compared with the biomechanical data to explore the relationship between mood phase and body movements. Individuals are tested twice, in sessions about six months apart, to determine if the effects of mood phase are the same over time. Outcomes of the study are important to assess whether body movements can be used as a biomarker of mood phase in individuals with bipolar disorder.

Walking speed and expression of emotion

Walking speed changes when emotions are expressed. With high arousal emotions like anger and joy, walking speeds up, and with sadness, walking slows down. In this series of experiments, we investigate which aspects of body movement are related to walking speed, and which depend on emotional expression. We elicit different emotions and manipulate walking speeds using video and virtual representations of the body to study the effect of walking speed on emotional expression.