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Neuroscience Center Zurich

Motor Systems

Bolliger Marc


PD Dr. Marc Bolliger
University Hospital Balgrist, Spinal Cord Injury Center

 Research Focus: Regaining locomotor function after spinal cord injury (SCI) is one of the priorities for the affected persons. The focus of our group lies on the development of new technologies to enhance the therapy outcome after SCI. In addition, we establish detailed motion capture analysis in our patients to better understand mechanism of improvements. Our interdisciplinary team consists of movement scientists, biologists, engineers and therapists and is closely connected to the clinic of the Spinal Cord Injury Center Balgrist.

Keywords: Spinal cord injury, rehabilitation robotics, locomotion, movement analysis, outcome measures, intervention.

Topics: Motor Systems, Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed





PD Dr. sc. ETH Markus Christen

Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine & UZH Digital Society Initiative, University of Zurich
Research Focus: The Neuro-Ethics-Technology research group of the Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine investigates research topics at the interfaces of ethics, neuroscience/-psychology and information technology. We use both empirical and normative methodologies in currently nine different research projects. Those research fields are: research on moral intelligence components, family life, health & moral development, brain death and transplantation, serious moral games, ethics of neuromodulation, moral decision making and autonomous systems, Big data ethics, visualizing morally loaded data, cybersecurity and ethics.

Keywords: neuroethics; deep brain stimulation; brain death; big data ethics; moral psychology; ethics of information technology
Topics: Biomedical Technology; Cognitive Neuroscience; Motor Systems




Elisa Donati


Dr. Elisa Donati, Junior Group Leader
Institute of Neuroinformatics, ETH Zurich and  University of Zurich

Research focus: My research activities are at the interface of neuroscience and neuromorphic engineering. My main goal is to understand how to develop event-based systems able to interface with humans to process in real-time physiological data as inputs. In particular, I am focusing on biomedical applications where the device should be implanted to restore missing biological functions, (e.g., adaptive pacemakers, biomedical devices for neuroprosthetics).

In addition, I am exploring the peripherical nervous system to understand how to apply physiological models to robotic control, to build a fully event-based pipeline.

Keywords: Neuromorphic, biomedical application, biomedical signal processing, electronic circuits, robotics

Topic: Computation and Modeling and Motor Systems

Publications: Google Scholar



Filli Linard


PD Dr. sc. Linard Filli
Spinal Cord Injury Center, Balgrist University Hospital, University of Zurich

Research Focus: Accurate movement execution is a result of a complex interplay between various muscle groups whose activity is controlled by different areas of the central nervous system (CNS). We are interested in the neural underpinnings of movement control and the neural mechanisms underlying functional recovery after spinal cord injury (SCI). Besides the corticospinal system, the phylogenetically old reticulospinal system is a key descending motor system controlling different elementary movements including posture, locomotion and reaching across vertebrate species. In contrast to the corticospinal system, there is only sparse knowledge on the role of the reticulospinal system in human motor control. One research area of interest aims at gaining more insights into the contribution of the reticulospinal system to the control of different movements (simple vs. complex, coordinative movements). Additionally, we are interested in the neuroplastic rearrangements of the main descending motor systems (i.e. cortico- and reticulospinal system) and how their neuroplastic re-weighting contributes to functional recovery in subjects with SCI. Enhanced knowledge on the plasticity and regenerative capacity of the key descending motor systems will hopefully translate into effective, future clinical trials that aim at improving motor recovery in patients with CNS injuries.

Keywords: neural control of movements, locomotion, movement analysis, neurophysiology, corticospinal system, reticulospinal system, functional recovery, neuroplasticity, spinal cord injury

Topics: motor systems, disorders of the nervous system

Publications: PubMed



Roger Gassert


Prof. Dr. Roger Gassert
Rehabilitation Engineering Lab, Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich

Research Focus: We apply robotics, wearable sensor technology and non-invasive neuroimaging to the exploration, assessment and restoration of sensorimotor function, with the goal of promoting recovery following neurological injury and developing assistive technologies for the compensation of remaining deficits.

Keywords: physical human-machine interaction, rehabilitation robotics, haptics, assistive technology, neural control of movement, neuroimaging, neurofeedback

Topics: Sensory Systems, Motor Systems, Disorders of the Nervous System, Biomedical Technology and Imaging

Publications: Google Scholar



Richard Hahnloser

Prof. Dr. Richard Hahnloser
Institute of Neuroinformatics, ETH Zurich and University of Zurich

Research Focus: We research sensorimotor and observational learning, birdsong development, neural coding in auditory and motor brain areas, ultrastructure of synaptic networks.  We make use mainly of computational modeling, behavioral methods, electrophysiology, and light- and electron microscopy.

Keywords: imitation behavior, learning

Topics: Computation and Modeling, Neural Basis of Behavior, Motor Systems




Lambercy Olivier


Dr. Olivier Lambercy

Rehabilitation Engineering Lab, Dep. of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zürich

Research Focus: In our group we are developing and clinically evaluating novel technologies to support the assessment and therapy of upper limb function in people with neurological disorders (stroke, SCI, multiple sclerosis). In particular, we are interested in using movement data (kinematic and kinetic) to derive more objective and sensitive health metrics that can help understand impairment mechanisms (in human and animal models), finely quantify functional limitations and response to therapy interventions, and develop predictive models to personalize rehabilitative treatments.

Keywords: Technology-based assessments, wearable sensors, robotics, neurorehabilitation, digital health, biomarkers

Topic: Sensory Systems, Motor System, Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: Google Scholar



Meier Michael


PD Dr. Michael L. Meier
Integrative Spinal Research Group, Department of Chiropractic Medicine, Balgrist University Hospital, University of Zurich

Research Focus: People move differently in the presence of (or in anticipation of) pain. Changes in motor control may play an important role in musculoskeletal pain. In our laboratory, we use an interdisciplinary approach that combines neuroscience and movement biomechanics research to provide new insights into the role of possible interactions between motor control and psychological factors in the development and maintenance of low back pain. The methodological basis includes the assessment of psychological factors, biomechanical assessments of movement during functional activities based on high-resolution optical motion capture and musculoskeletal modeling, and generation of cortical topographic maps of paraspinal afferent input using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Ultimately, this cross-disciplinary approach might lead to a better understanding of low back pain with the potential to translate into clinical research for better treatment options.

Keywords: low back pain, pain-related fear, spine kinematics, biomechanics, spinal load, proprioception, movement

Topics: Sensory Systems and Motor Systems

Publications: orcid



Robert Riener


Prof. Dr. Ing. Robert Riener
Sensory Motors Systems Lab, Dept of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich and Paraplegic Center, University Hospital Balgrist Zurich

Research Focus: Robert Riener and the members of his Sensory-Motor Systems (SMS) Lab investigate the sensory-motor actions in and interactions between humans and machines. The research focuses on the study of human sensory-motor control, the design of novel mechatronic machines, and the investigation and optimisation of human-machine interaction. Riener’s Lab has developed famous rehabilitation robots (such as the ARMin) and virtual reality technologies applied to the area of neurorehabilitation. Main application areas are the fields of neuro-rehabilitation and sports. R. Riener is also the initiator and organiser of the Cybathlon 2016 in Kloten, Zurich.

Keywords: Neurorehabilitation, rehabilitaiton robotics, motor learning, control of motion, biomechatronics
Topic: Motor Systems, Biomedical Technology and Imaging


Huub van hedel


Prof. Dr. Huub van Hedel
Head of the Pediatric Rehab Research Department, Rehabilitation Center for Children and Adolescents, University Children’s Hospital Zurich, Affoltern am Albis

Research Focus: The neurorehabilitative treatment of upper and lower extremity functions and activities in children and youths with neurological disorders presents a high challenge as the developmental status interferes with neurological, functional, cognitive, and motivational aspects. As evidence-based guidelines for assessment and treatment are scarce, our main aim is to improve the rehabilitation process of children and youths. We have three main directions for research: (i) Develop, refine, and psychometrically evaluate (clinical) assessments, including technology-based ones. (ii) Develop and assess rehabilitative interventions, with an emphasis on rehabilitation technologies and exergames. (iii) Understand how the brain reorganizes during neurorehabilitation (e.g. with EEG, fNIRS or MRI).

Keywords: pediatric, rehabilitation technology, psychometric studies, effectiveness, brain reorganisation

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous Systems, Motor Systems

Publications: PubMed



Nicole Wenderoth

Prof. Dr. Nicole Wenderoth

Neural Control of Movement Lab, Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich
Research Focus: We develop non-invasive interfaces to modulate brain function. To do so we use different medical imaging and neurophysiological techniques to understand the computational principles guiding behavior as well as its adaptation to the constraints and rewards present in the environment. We are interested in a broad range of behavioral processes including sensorimotor control and learning, spatial navigation, and how different rewards influence choices and the willingness to invest effort.  Once we understand the task-specific neural interactions across different brain regions we develop interventions that tap into these processes to modulate brain activity and behavior. Tools we use are non-invasive magnetic or electric brain stimulation as well as human-machine interfaces.  We pursue a translational approach applying our methods in animal models, healthy human volunteers and patients (stroke, cerebral palsy, Autism).

Keywords: Sensorimotor Control, Memory, Effort, Theory-of-Mind, Stroke, Cerebral Palsy, Autism, non-invasive brain stimulation, medical imaging

Topic: Motor Systems

Publications: PubMed