Contributions of the reticulospinal system to movement control
Movement disorders are frequent in patients with neurological disorders and have a major impact on patients' quality of life. This master project investigates the neural control mechanisms underlying human movements with a particular focus on the reticulospinal system. The central nervous system (CNS) controls movement performance through different descending tract systems emanating from the cortex (corticospinal) and different brainstem centers (e.g. reticulospinal, vestibulospinal). The different motor systems show unique contributions to voluntary movement control, with the corticospinal system being critical for fine-tuned and skilled movements, and the reticulospinal system being more involved in basic movements (i.e. posture and locomotion). In contrast to the corticospinal system, the contribution of the reticulospinal system to human movement control is poorly understood and mainly based on experimental animal research.
This project at the Spinal Cord Injury Center of the Balgrist University Hospital aims at elucidating the role of the reticulospinal system in the control of different movements in humans. We will use loud acoustic stimuli that are able to selectively activate areas of the reticulospinal system, thus allowing to examine the functionality of this system. The project will provide new insights into proximal-distal, flexor-extensor and upper-lower extremity gradients in reticulospinal motor control of healthy subjects. Moreover, we will investigate reticulospinal involvement in complex movements requiring endpoint accuracy.
Given the high functional relevance of the reticulospinal system in movement control, a detailed investigation of the reticulospinal motor control is vital. The project will provide elementary insights into reticulospinal motor physiology and hopefully set the stage for a better exploitation of this key motor system in neurological rehabilitation.
Main tasks during the master thesis:
- Performing multi-modal movement analysis including 3-D kinematic analysis, surface electromyography (sEMG) and force assessments
- Software-based processing and analysis of raw data
- Applying statistical analysis, interpreting results and presenting data
- Supervised planning and writing of master thesis
Time frame: 6 – 9 months (combined internship and master thesis is possible)
Start date: now (or later upon agreement)
Contact: Dr. sc. ETH Linard Filli
Spinal Cord Injury Center, Balgrist University Hospital Zurich