Dr. Catherine Mercier

Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation and Social Integration (CIRRIS), Université Laval

Research in the field of chronic pain has revealed that anticipated pain can affect patients’ movement preparation, body perception and kinesthesia. However, the variation in these changes between different pain conditions and the mechanisms that cause them are poorly understood.  Dr. Catherine Mercier, a researcher at l’Université Laval, is using the Kinarm to help uncover the mysteries behind this relationship.

Her research with the Kinarm spans numerous forms of chronic pain, such as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), fibromyalgia, and spinal cord injury. She explores diverse pain-movement relationships, for instance tonic pain and motor learning, and acute pain and sensorimotor conflict perception. Dr. Mercier’s study on corticospinal excitability before anticipated movement-related pain has demonstrated the protective measures used by individuals for lessening acute pain, a strategy which can lead to the development of chronic pain.

Dr. Mercier’s recent publication using the Kinarm studies how proprioception is altered in CRPS patients. In addition to using Kinarm Standard Tests, her team developed protocols for the Kinarm in which the upper limbs of the patient were replaced by virtual limbs that provide altered visual feedback during movement. Her work found that people with chronic pain perform worse on the Arm Position Matching Task and are less able to consciously identify the alteration in visual feedback from the virtual limb, reflecting a poorer perception of their own movements.

Her current research is investigating whether altered feedback can be used to increase movement and reduce movement-related pain during training in populations with chronic pain, who often exhibit fear-avoidance behavior. Equipped with the data and findings produced from the Kinarm Labs, Mercier’s team has the potential to provide long-lasting pain relief for those who are suffering from a variety of chronic pain issues.


Video by Radio-Canada