47th Face to Face Meeting Innovations for People with Spinal Cord Injury : New Freedom through Movement

At the 47th Face to Face Meeting, you can learn how the interaction of research, technology and movement provides new freedom for people living with spinal cord injuries.

– Hotel Sempachersee, Kantonsstrasse 46, 6207 Nottwil

Due to the coronavirus this event is postponed.

Moving freely in the city and in nature, participating in sports and being in control of one's own body: for people with paraplegia not something to be taken for granted. Yet rehabilitation research does not stand still: at the 47th Face to Face Meeting you can learn how neurotechnologies restore motor function and what challenges are faced by paralyzed cyclists who use FES cycling. Furthermore, you will gain insight into the daily restrictions faced by affected people, and how this gives them the power to innovate. Experience how the interaction of research, technology and movement can minimise health risks and provide new freedom to people living with spinal cord injury.


An accident in 2013 left me quadriplegic.  I then started to do physical training with one objective: to maximise my recovery.  After doing exercises with machines and up to 37 hours per week of training in my basement, I finally realizing that I had to combine "intelligent" movements with pleasure. Hence, the Go-Tryke was born: a three-wheeled bicycle that employs both arms and legs for outdoor use. The start-up, GBY has received promising results based on ist user-trials. This has been an incredible technical and human adventure that I will share with you.

Language of presentation: French

Sébastian Tobler, Lecturer Vehicle Construction Bern University of Applied Sciences & CEO GBY SA


Sébastian Tobler

Technology has been developed that allows people with complete lower-limb paralysis following spinal cord injury to propel a recumbent tricycle by muscle power alone: functional electrical stimulation (FES). In addition to facilitating mobility and recreation, FES-cycling brings substantial improvements in fitness, musculoskeletal condition, and general health. This presentation will review recent technological and scientific developments in FES-cycling, and will highlight our team’s industrial collaborations aimed at bringing FES devices to market. Finally, preparations for the FES Bike Race at Cybathlon 2020 will be described.

Language of presentation: English

Prof. Dr. Kenneth James Hunt, Head, Institute for Rehabilitation and Performance Technology IRPT, Bern University of Applied Sciences

Prof. Dr. Kenneth Hunt

Over the past 15 years, my research team have developed a multipronged intervention that reestablished voluntary control of paralyzed legs in animal models of spinal cord injury, and recently in humans. This intervention acts over two time-windows. Immediately, electrical and chemical stimulations applied to the lumbar spinal cord reactivate lumbar execute centers located below the injury that coordinate leg movements, enabling voluntary control of paralyzed muscles during locomotion. In the long term, will-powered training regimens enabled by these electrochemical stimulations and cutting-edge robotic assistance promote the reorganization of residual connections that restores voluntary movements without stimulation. We recently exploited these neurotechnologies to target the sympathetic circuitry, which allowed us to develop a neuroprosthetic baroreflex that precisely controls hemodynamic instability after severe SCI in preclinical models and humans. During my talk, I will discuss the technological and conceptual development of these interventions in preclinical models, how we translated these developments in humans with SCI, and how we envision the next steps to establish a clinically viable treatment.

Language of presentation: English

Prof. Dr. Grégoire Courtine, Co-Director Defitech Center for Interventional Neurotherapies (NeuroRestore), École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne EPFL

Prof. Dr. Grégoire Courtine

Paraplegia does not only mean not being able to move one's extremities, the injury also implicates a high degree of health complications and restrictions in everyday life. To be able to keep in good health for as long as possible, it is very important to maintain and improve muscle strength and mobility. Physical activity should therefore be done regularly, to the right extent and throughout life. Regular physical exercise reduces the risk of widespread complaints and diseases, such as obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases as well as bone loss (osteoporosis). Paraplegia does not necessarily lead to such diseases, but a sedentary lifestyle increases the probability. Physical activity can help to prevent or heal many physical  complaints if done specifically, similar to a drug. A precondition for a specific use is the knowledge of the physical effects of exercise and why.

Swiss Paraplegic Research strives for ensuring that the latest findings are executed in order to provide the best possible healthcare for paraplegics. In my talk I will present a cross-country overview of the Go-Tryke study for paraplegics.

Language of presentation: German

Dr. Sue Bertschy, Head of Project Go-Tryke Study, Swiss Paraplegic Research, Nottwil

Dr. Sue Bertschy

It is well known that optimal spatio-temporal coordination between the arms and legs is facilitated by propriospinal interconnections between locomotor networks at the cervical and lumbar levels. The functional consequence observed in young adults is that during a cycling exercise involving the arms (active) and the legs (passive), increased muscle activity in the upper limbs leads to greater muscle activation in the passively driven lower limbs. Furthermore, the timing of the electromyographic (EMG) activity recorded in the muscles of the passively driven lower limbs is identical to the timing observed when the legs are in active motion. Similar results have been seen in patients with incomplete spinal cord injury. In the QUADRACT study, we seek to identify the optimal conditions for arm movement which could facilitate spontaneous leg participation. We have therefore examined a number of factors that could play a significant role in the automatic control of arm-leg coupling in a quadruped pedalling exercise: the attention given or not given to hand movement, the relative position of the handles and pedals, and finally, the speed and power of the arm movements. From a practical standpoint, the results obtained will help to develop adapted exercises involving arm movement in order to maximise lower limb rehabilitation in patients with spinal cord injury.

Language of presentation: English

Jérôme Barral, PhD, Senior Lecturer, Institute of Sport Sciences, University of Lausanne

Dr. Jérôme Barral
Dr. Jérôme Barral


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