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Motor Processes and Sensory Perception

This research field focuses on neuronal correlates of motor processes. In this context, we are not only interested in motor execution but also in the mental imagination of movements. Motor imagery activates comparable neuronal networks than executing movements. Mental training is not only used in sports or music to improve performance, it can also be used in neurological rehabilitation. For instance, a stroke in the motor system of the brain often leads to a paresis. Imagining movements fosters neuronal plasticity processes in the motor system and consequently can improve the recovery of motor function after brain injury. To investigate the effects of motor imagery in the context of neurological rehabilitation, a close collaboration between different scientific areas is necessary, including neuroscience, psychology, medicine, physiology, biology, and technical sciences.

In the field of motor imagery and its neuronal correlates, research is also focused on the development and application of brain-computer-interfaces (BCI) and neurofeedback systems. A BCI enables for instance severely handicapped persons to control external devices such as a wheelchair, a neuroprosthesis, or a computer to communicate. This research is done within a collaborative project with the Graz University of Technology.

Another core area of this research field focuses on the implementation of mathematical models of human movements that, in addition to mechanical and physiological quantities, also takes neurological parameters into account. To determine muscle properties individually we have developed a specific measuring system in Graz. The field of biomechanics is no longer restricted to mechanics but has become an interdisciplinary science involving physics and mathematics, and especially physiology and neuroscience. Research questions are e.g. the relations between maximum activation and movement, the effect of motivation, concentration, and fatigue on the movement depending on mechanical muscle parameters.

In non-human model systems (fishes and reptiles), we study the neuronal basis of vocal and pectoral motor control. Fishes are in this respect excellent model organisms due to the lower degree of complexity of their neuronal circuits. Nonetheless, as basal vertebrates, they allow for direct predictions of neuronal circuit organization in humans. In insect models, we study the visual information processing that enables the detection of impending collisions and night vision. In a bionic approach we transfer these abilities to improve the safety of drone flights and reduce the the dose of x-rays that is applied during breast cancer screening.

In the context of sensory perception sciences in Graz, one of the core research fields is the human sense of smell. Research focuses on neuronal correlates of smell perception and processing in correspondence to biological markers, such as the nasal microbiome, hormonal status, gender differences, and neuropsychological measures. Multimodal sensory integration studies are conducted to investigate the influence of these interaction effects on the individual percept.

Current funded projects

  • A Soft Touch Training for patients with skin-picking disorder. 2020-2022. Funded by FWF (Austrian Science Foundation). PI: Anne Schienle.
  • Entwicklung eines bionischen Detektions- und Ausweichsystems für UAVs (2019-2021) Funded by FFG (Austrian Research Promotion Agency). PI: Manfred Hartbauer.

Current Publications

  • Kober, S.E., Grössinger, D., & Wood, G. (2019). Effects of Motor Imagery and Visual Neurofeedback on Activation in the Swallowing Network: A Real-Time fMRI Study. Dysphagia, 1-17. doi: 10.1007/s00455-019-09985-w
  • Kober, S.E., Spörk, R., Bauernfeind, G., Wood, G. (2019). Age-related differences in the within-session trainability of hemodynamic parameters: a near-infrared spectroscopy based neurofeedback study. Neurobiology of Aging, 81, 127-137. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2019.05.022
  • Straka, H., Simmers, J., & Chagnaud, B.P .(2018) A New Perspective on Predictive Motor Signaling. Current Biology, 28(5), R232-R243. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.01.033
  • Ofner, P., Schwarz, A., Pereira, J., Wyss, D., Wildburger, R. & Müller-Putz, G. R. (2019). Attempted Arm and Hand Movements can be Decoded from Low-Frequency EEG from Persons with Spinal Cord Injury. Scientific reports, 9(1), 7134-7134. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-43594-9
  • Schulz, L., Ischebeck, A., Wriessnegger, S. C., Steyrl, D. & Müller-Putz, G. (2018). Action affordances and visuo-spatial complexity in motor imagery: an fMRI study. Brain and Cognition, 124, 37-46. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2018.03.012
  • Cecchetto, C., Fischmeister, F.Ph.S., Reichert, J., Bagga, D., Schöpf, V. (2019). When to collect resting-state data: The influence of odor on post-task resting-state connectivity. NeuroImage, 191, 361-366. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.02.050


Priv.-Doz. Mag.rer.nat. Dr.rer.nat.

Silvia Kober

Priv.-Doz. Mag.rer.nat. Dr.rer.nat. Silvia Kober Institut für Psychologie
Phone:+43 316 380 - 8497

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