Discovering your body

Learning to feel and move your body to build your body map

Phase 3


Type of project: Feasibility study

Disability concerned: Mental disability, Motor disability, Polydisability, Spastic tetraparesis, Cerebral palsy, Global developmental delay

Topics : Autonomy, Health, Development of voluntary motor skills, Child development, Building the individual, Physical and mental well-being, Quality of life

Status: Completed

This project proposes an innovative application to enable children with severe motor disabilities to better understand and control their movements. To achieve this, we are replacing proprioception, which spastic tetraparesis tends to render inoperative and dysfunctional, with new visual information about the body and the quality of muscle contractions.

This project follows on from two previous Innovation Booster grants (exploratory research and prototype). It concerns support for children with spastic tetraparesis, the most severe form of cerebral palsy.

Spastic quadriplegia affects not only muscle control but also the sensory messages that emanate from our movements. Somaesthetic sensitivity, in particular proprioception, has difficulty in providing sufficiently clear information about our body’s positions in space. Our hypothesis is that, over and above brain damage, this lack of proprioceptive information prevents children from learning to move coherently.

The brain does not process information from the senses separately, but rather integrates them in a multimodal way, even on the basis of sometimes fragmentary information of different kinds. This faculty can be used in the context of sensory deficits, such as proprioception. Since the work of Bach Y Rita (1980), it has been proven that an electronic and computerised device can compensate for a sensory handicap by offering substitute information in another sensory modality.

Our prototype provides visual feedback on the child’s contractions, suggesting that vision can replace deficient proprioception. Our results with two young children confirm the organising power of this feedback on movement and spasticity.

The challenge is certainly motor-based, but it also affects the whole of development, because voluntary motor skills are essential for the emergence of self-awareness and the subject’s sense of self.

As far as the software is concerned, the many adjustments we have made have made us aware of the time it takes to implement such software. Each time we encountered a bug in the test-taking process, we reconsidered the software in order to improve it.

The relativity of time is also part and parcel of the disability itself: supporting these children takes time, whereas progress only emerges over time. And it is vital to keep up this pace if we are to give success a chance!

Finally, this last episode made us even more aware of the quality and certain characteristics of the equipment used (EMG sensors, computer, position of the children, etc.) as well as the strength of working in a network.

The image shows a prototype of the application. At the top, a girl is sitting on a beach. It says "rest". At the bottom, a cat is walking past the girl. It is written "voluntary movement".

Contact info

HETS – Filière Psychomotricité 

Chantal Junker-Tschopp

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