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University of New South Wales

  • Spinal Cord Injury Research Grant
Date Funded:
  • 30 June, 2020
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Associate Professor Sylvia Gustin

Project summary

Immersive virtual reality treatment for restoring touch perception in people with discomplete paraplegia.



What is the issue for NSW?

Complete spinal cord injury (SCI) is associated with a complete loss of function such as mobility or sensation. An earlier study, by these researchers, showed that 50% of people with spinal cord injury tested had surviving somatosensory pathways at the level of the spine.

This means the brain is still recieving messages. This is called “discomplete SCI” – a SCI person who cannot feel touch, but touch information is still forwarded from the place of touch to the brain.

Currently, there are no effective intervention to promote or restore touch perception among those with discomplete SCI.

What does the research aim to do and how?

The proposed study will address this need by developing and testing a novel intervention that can provide touch restoration. Immersive virtual reality is being used to re-train the brain to identify the distorted signals from toe to brain as sensation (touch). The immersive virtual reality interface will be developed to be distributed to people’s homes, providing affordable self-directed means of rehabilitative therapy. This project offers new, exciting diagnostic and therapeutic avenues in SCI practice.