The project aims to the comprehension of the various different components of the peripersonal space (PPS). This is the space around the body where people interact with objects without moving the whole body. Cortical PPS representation is mainly based on multi-modal neurons and on the integration of tactile perception with other afferences (e.g. vision, audio). Nevertheless, the specific role of sensory-motor and perceptive components in PPS is to date still debated. Paraplegia is a perfect model for these studies, as a topographical organization of the damage allows the direct comparison between space around deafferented lower limbs and that around the upper limbs, spared by lesion.
Thanks to the proponent’s role of coordinator of an European Research Group in Spinal cord Injury (SCI-Research group, http://profs.formazione.univr.it/npsy-labvr/spinal-cord-injury-research-center/) we previously devised some studies on PPS and we found that SCI leads to the loss of PPS around feet, while this is spared around hands. Crucially, we also observed that application of passive short-term mobilization on the lower limbs induces recovery in PPS.
Now, in order to investigate the role of various components in PPS in healthy and SCI participants, virtual reality and robotics will be used. Behavioural and electrophysiological data will be recorded to compare the role of visual inputs when associated with congruent and incongruent passive mobilization. In addition, the effects of passive motion will be compared to those induced by intentional robotically supported motion.