Sensory and Cognitive Rehabilitation
Team leaders: Béatrice Alescio-Lautier & Liliane Borel

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Sensory interactions and balance


Permanent Members

  • Liliane BOREL (DR2 CNRS)
  • Caroline CHAMBON (MCU)
  • Abdessadek EL AHMADI (MCU)
  • Patrick GAUTHIER (DR2 CNRS)
  • Stéphanie KHALFA (CR1 CNRS, HDR)
  • Véronique PABAN (MCU; HDR)
  • Claude TOUZET (MCU; HDR)
  • Michel DUMITRESCU (Research Engineer, CNRS)

Associate Researchers

  • Bernard MICHEL PH (Praticien hospitalier)

Doctoral and Post-doctoral Researchers

  • Claire DESHAYES (PhD Student)
  • Anaïs MINET (PhD Student)
  • Pierre-François ROUSSEAU (PhD Student)

Scientific objectives

The Sensory and Cognitive Rehabilitation team investigates the relationship between cognitive and sensory functions, where we analyze the interactions and synergies of cognitive and of sensory processes. This leads to the design of improved types of rehabilitation.

The scientific objectives of our team are

  1. To study sensory interactions and balance, and specify how, after sensory loss, the remaining sensory modalities modulate body-space relationships and spatial representations.
  2. To determine the cognitive interactions and cerebral underpinnings of a wide range of mental functions.
  3. To clarify the relationship between Balance and Cognition, their interaction and contribution to rehabilitation.
  4. To evaluate different rehabilitation processes, and to study their mechanisms of actions.

We carry out research on humans (healthy adults, elderly, and in pathologies such as Alzheimer disease, traumatic brain injury (TBI), subjects with post-traumatic stress disorder, and vestibular defective patients) and animals (mice, rats). These methods provide us a powerful approach to gain insightful knowledge from the molecular and cellular mechanisms to the neural networks involved in sensory perception and cognition, their impairment and restoration.

The results from each of the lines of research are transferred towards clinical, rehabilitation and technological programs (ANR SYNCHRO-TC)

Theme 1 : Sensory interactions and balance

  • Improving postural control by enhancing sensory coding

What are the consequences of changing the weights of the different sensory information by optimizing muscle proprioceptive information? Is postural stability improved in vestibular defective patients?

  • Body and extrapersonal space representation

How are changes in body spatial representations after vestibular loss modulated by the lesioned side and post-lesion time?

  • The simulation of balancing learning processes and adaptation to impairment

New learning methods and artificial neural networks: a mechanical model of human balance.

Theme 2 – Cognitive interactions and cerebral underpinnings

  • Brain activity at rest

Someone who is awake, but not consciously performing any physical or mental task, is said to be resting. In this state, the person is conscious and engaged in internally-directed thought.

Which relationships exist between resting-state brain activity and cognitive performances?
Can brain networks at rest predict clinical scores?
Are intrinsic functional networks associated with fundamental differences between people, e.g. in personality?
Does cognitive rehabilitation alter brain networks at rest?

  • Cerebral mechanisms underlying mental load increase and mental fatigue

How are executive functions solicited and linked to each other when mental load increases?
Does an increasing mental load alter these relationships, and if so, how?
Can these correlations be modified by cognitive dysfunction?
What are the electrophysiological indicators of mental fatigue during the Switching Visual Working Memory (SVWM) task?

To what extent does mental fatigue alter resting state networks and does cognitive rehabilitation decrease mental fatigue?


  • Studies of the sensory and cellular correlates of cognitive performances in different neurotypical aging populations

This project addresses questions about the impact of the quality of sensory inputs and sensory processing on cognitive abilities in normal, ‘neurotypical’ aging people, while taking into account the inherent inter-individual variability of this population.

We hypothesize that by dividing neurotypical aging people into three distinct sub-populations (low-performers, high-performers with cognitive reserve, and high-performers with brain maintenance), we will help better understanding the sensory, neurofunctional, and neurobiological correlates of cognitive variability in the elderly.

Theme 3. Balance and Cognition: Interactions and contributions to rehabilitation

  • Cognitive mechanisms as adaptive processes involved in regaining balance

What is the role of attention in the various stages of compensation in vestibular defective patients tested in dual postural-cognitive tasks?
Do neurophysiological changes in neural networks, resulting from cognitive training, contribute to the improvement of postural performances in traumatic brain injured patients?

  • Theoretical model of postural-cognitive interaction

We suggest that the way subjects manage a dual postural-cognitive task depends on their mental load.

  • Stereotype threat

Stereotype threat leads individuals to perform far below their capacity, in fear of confirming a negative stereotype.

Stereotype threat disrupts working memory and increases mental load.

What are the consequences of stereotype threat on balance abilities, cognitive functions, and their interactions? Analyses are performed in elderly subjects and vestibular-defective patients with poor compensation of balance.

Theme 4. Rehabilitation

We design and use various rehabilitation procedures, evaluate their effects on cognition, balance, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and quality of life and we analyze the underlying cerebral mechanisms.

  • Rehabilitation of working memory and attentional control


In recent studies we found a transfer of benefits from cognitive training to balance function, in the elderly.
What are the cognitive mechanisms by which executive functions participate in postural control?

  • Cognitive and sensory rehabilitation

What are the differential effects of rehabiliatation on cognition, balance, or both?

What are the underlying mechanisms of action?

  • Holistic rehabilitation 

Our holistic rehabilitation program trains cognitive domains such as memory, attention, and executive functions, based on problem solving and customized scenarios, relaxation, and mindfulness training (developing sensory and mental attention).

We aim to:

  • Identify the processes involved in cognitive function recovery.
  • Characterize the anatomical and physiological substrates (using MRI, fMRI, and EEG) underlying recovery.
  • Determine the physiological indicators of recovery of mental fatigue in healthy adults and traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients.

  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy mechanisms

The objective of our research is to study the brain mechanisms involved in the reduction of stress and anxiety in healthy subjects and in PTSD.
By working with military personnel who have developed PTSD that we treat with eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, we can track brain mechanisms during therapy using 64 electrode electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings.

With the help of virtual reality coupling to relive war scenes and brain PET scans, metabolic response in stress situations, particularly at the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, will be evaluated in PTSD before and after EMDR treatment.

  • Neurofeedback

The clinical efficacy of neurofeedback on PTSD will be evaluated. We will also study the mechanisms involved in the efficacy of neurofeedback to reduce anxiety in healthy subjects and establish the neurophysiological correlates of this effect.