Walking requires interactions among a central unit (motor system), actuators (musculoskeletal system) and real-time feedback (sensory system). When a brain lesion occurred, such as in cerebral palsy (CP), this is reflected to these systems. With this proposal, I aim to understand how the impaired system interaction affect walk ability.
CP is the most predominant childhood disability. This disability is generally defined mainly as motor impairment, but it is known to be associated with somatosensory disorders. The sensory system is composed by sensation and perception. Here the perception will be assessed as cortical proprioceptive processing using MEG. The motor system will be analysed at the spinal level and in terms of resistance to passive ankle movement (neural and non-neural components of spasticity), whilst the lower limb musculoskeletal properties are quantified as morphology, stiffness and composition.
I will focus on three objectives: (1) to unveil the interaction between spasticity and cortical proprioceptive processing, (2) to establish methodologies for extracting lower limb musculoskeletal properties and associate them with gait ability; (3) to understand whether is possible to delineate a statistical model that describes how altered motor, musculoskeletal and sensory systems at the ankle joint level affect gait ability. I will quantitatively analyse CP as sensorimotor disorder, thus opening new scientific and clinical frontiers.
To successfully perform this project, I established a cooperation between myself and experts in musculoskeletal (my supervisor Prof. Taija Finni) and sensorimotor (Assoc.Prof. Harri Piitulainen) systems at the host institution. Their knowledge, their research teams and the facilities available will allow me to perform the planned study. Moreover, I will exploit the collaboration with KTH Stockholm during my secondment for comprehensively analyse musculoskeletal properties to become an independent professional.
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