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Spinal Cord Injury Center, Research

The role of proprioception in movement imagery, awareness and production

Project leader: PD Dr. Martin Schubert


The pathways carrying this information may be disrupted following a spinal cord injury which renders the affected body parts clumsy or out of control. The question arises of how we can restore this important information to the brain? Unfortunately, there is little known about how the brain areas that generate the motor commands use the sensory inputs. Moreover, there is an urgent need to improve the diagnosis of loss of conduction of proprioceptive information to the brain. This study will provide new insights into how sensory inputs influence movements by studying the brain’s motor areas in healthy and spinal cord injured patients. In addition, we shall establish a method to diagnose proprioceptive loss in spinal cord injured patients. Further, we aim to develop perceptual tests such as reflex testing by electrical stimulation and tendon tapping to produce a spinal reflex. Assessment of proprioceptive loss due to injured pathways to the brain will result in impaired feeling of the reflexive movement. The illustration below gives an example of the subjective scaling of reflex sensation in healthy subjects and patients who have suffered a spinal cord injury. The study may provide a powerful yet simple tool for clinical use and at the same time significantly add to our knowledge on how the brain works to control complex movement.

External project partners:

  • Dr. Arko Gosh, University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, Institute of Neuroinformatics
  • Katharina Wolf, Balgrist University Hospital Zurich, Spinal Cord Injury Center

For further information please contact: PD Dr. Martin Schubert