Sonja Cornelsen

Alumni of the Department High-Field Magnetic Resonance

Main Focus

People execute a variety of arm and hand movements to interact with objects in the environment. These movements can be performed accurately even in the presence of sudden perturbations such as a change of target location or size. The fast adjustment to a change of the target requires the brain to control the movement continuously. Even though people perceive such actions as a single smooth movement, two simultaneous occurring components are distinguished in motor control research. The first one is the reaching movement or transport component, which adjusts the kinematic hand and arm profile to the location and distance of the target. The second component is the grasping movement or grip component. It orients the hand and regulates the width of grip aperture defined as the distance between the thumb and the index finger to fit the shape and size of the target.

Although only grasping requires the fine-grained processing of the target’s shape, size and orientation, both components comprise the movement of the hand to the target, and follow the same goal. Consequently, the question arises whether grasping and reaching movements might share a common neuronal correlate, or distinct cortical regions might mediate these two components of a movement.

Reaching and grasping movements require the contribution of several parietal and premotor areas. Whereas some of these areas belong to the dorsolateral circuit associated with grasping, others are part of the dorsomedial circuit associated with reaching. The extent of functional separation between the neuronal correlates of these movements is still under debate. Recent findings indicate that the functional overlap between the dorsolateral and dorsomedial networks might be influenced by specific task requirements.

I am interested in the neuronal correlates of regions involved in the on-line control of reach-to-grasp movements and the question whether the neuronal substrates of these cortical regions are functionally segregated or not.

Curriculum Vitae


since 07/2011 PhD student at the MPI for Biological Cybernetics and the Center of Neurology, Division for Neuropsychology (Research Group: Neuropsychology of Action) under the Supervision of Dr. Himmelbach

10/2010-07/2011 Diploma Thesis at the , MPI for Biological Cybernetics

Topic: Neuronal Correlates of On-line Control in Reaching and Grasping

09/2007 - 01/2008 Psychology at the Glasgow University, Scotland

10/2005 - 07/2011 Diploma in Psychology at the Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen, Germany

Professional Experience

04/2010-08/2010 Internship at the Maastricht University/ Maastricht Brain Imaging Center under the supervision of Prof. Alexander Sack

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