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Enhancing touch

Our sense of touch is one we sometimes take for granted. This being said, there are serious and wide reaching consequences for those who experience degraded perception through stroke, peripheral damage, ageing and amputation. A deeper understanding of the mechanisms underlying touch is invaluable in working towards methods to ameliorate such deficits and improve guidance of motor control, as well as to optimise normal tactile perception.

In our research we look at how we can improve our sense of touch by systematic behavioural training. We explore what factors lead to the best learning outcomes, both naturally and through artificial interventions. Another exciting area within tactile learning looks at how training effects are not restricted to the trained area. Rather, learning spreads to naïve, untrained areas which overlap in their cortical representation with the trained body location. We would like to understand the neural mechanisms underlying this ability to spread learning, in order to enhance perception and performance.

 

Related publications: 

Dempsey-Jones, H., Harrar, V., Oliver, J., Johansen-Berg, H., Spence, C., & Makin, T. R. (2016). Transfer of tactile perceptual learning to untrained neighboring fingers reflects natural use relationships. Journal of neurophysiology115(3), 1088-1097.

Harrar, V., Spence, C., & Makin, T. R. (2014). Topographic generalization of tactile perceptual learning. Human perception and performance, 40, 15-23.

 

Collaborators: 

Aaron Seitz, Department of Psychology, University of California - Riverside

Vanessa Harrar, School of Optometry, Université de Montréal

David OstryDepartment of Psychology, McGill University