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Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience

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Plasticity

Plasticity group investigates the extent to which brain areas supporting perception and action are shaped by experience, with particular focus on what happens to the cortical territories of the hand following arm amputation. Th group is led by Dr Tamar Makin.

Tamar Makin

Group Leader

 

t.makin@ucl.ac.uk

+44 20 7679 1160

Tamar Makin

Plasticity Research

We study plasticity in body representation through the lens of motor control, using neuroimaging and behavioural methods. We aim to understand how our opportunities for interactions with the world drive brain plasticity to shape perception. Our primary model for this work is the sensorimotor hand area in individuals suffering a hand-loss. We investigate what happens to the cortical territories of the hand following arm amputation, or congenital hand absence. In particular, we want to know why amputees experience vivid sensations of their missing hand many decades after amputation, such as phantom limb pain. We are also interested how the brain supports the acquisition of new skills necessary for the amputees to adapt to their disability, such as artificial (prosthetic) limb usage.

To understand these processes better, we combine experimental models, performed on healthy participants (e.g. pharmacological nerve blocks, augmentative wearable technology), and related clinical populations (e.g. blind individuals). Finally, we use non-invasive brain stimulation, to help enhance the beneficial processes taking place in amputees brain, and to reduce other processes that may be harmful for their rehabilitation. We hope our research will enable clinicians to guide amputees and related clinical populations to take advantage of brain plasticity, rather than to suffer from their adverse effects.

Our major research areas are:


 

Group Members

PhD Students

Paulina Kieliba

Paulina Kieliba
p.kieliba.17@ucl.ac.uk

I am interested in combining the strengths of technology and neuroscientific research to best help individuals suffering from motor deficits. In particular, I explore opportunities for improving the usability and design of artificial limbs. In my research, I am looking at the supernumerary robotic fingers as an alternative to traditional prosthetic devices. I study the changes in the sensorimotor systems associated with the usage of an extra fingers both in healthy participants and in amputees.

Roni Maimon

Roni Maimon
roni.maimonmor@ndcn.ox.ac.uk

I'm interested in integrating tools from different disciplines (cognitive psychology, neuroimaging, rehabilitation, computational neuroscience), in order to gain a better understanding of brain plasticity to benefit real people with real life problems. Specifically, I'm focusing on the issue of low prosthesis usage in individuals with congenital and acquired limb loss.

Daan Wesselink

Daan Wesselink
d.wesselink@ucl.ac.uk

I’m interested in how much cortical representations of the body rely on sensorimotor input to the brain. As part of my PhD, I look at hand representation in people with reduced somatosensory afference, due to amputation or anaesthesia. I also study people with changed sensorimotor behaviour, e.g. people with high foot dexterity. 

Research Assistants

Victoria Root

Vicky Root
victoria.root.16@ucl.ac.uk

As a research assistant, I am interested in the relationship between the sensory and motor systems. My research focuses on whether training tactile perception can lead to enhanced motor control.  I believe this could have useful clinical application in prosthetic usage due to substitutionary feedback

Hunter Schone

Hunter Schone
hunter.schone.16@ucl.ac.uk

As a research assistant, I am interested in the brain plasticity of individuals missing a hand. I am currently investigating the cognitive representation of hands and artificial prosthetic hands in amputees to better understand how the brain facilitates prosthesis usage and prosthesis skill learning. 

MRes/MSc Students

Mischa Dhar

Misha Dhar
mischa.dhar.17@ucl.ac.uk

I am  an MRes student in Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL.  My research interests lie in understanding the role of brain plasticity in mediating the potential benefits of technology and non-invasive brain-machine interfaces.  Currently, I am investigating the neural embodiment of prosthetics in individuals with unilateral limb-loss.

Nour Odeh

Nour Odeh
nour.odeh.17@ucl.ac.uk

I am currently completing an MSc in Clinical Neuroscience at UCL. My research interests focus on cortical reorganisation after upper-limb loss, and how this might be ‘harnessed’ for successful clinical rehabilitation. I am motivated by the view that understanding the cognitive and neurophysiological signatures of prosthesis embodiment will lead to improvements in the functionality of artificial limbs, and thus better quality of life for the individual.  

Dominic Stirling

Dominic Stirling
dominic.stirling.17@ucl.ac.uk

I am currently completing an MSc in Neuroscience at UCL. My main research interest is in non-invasive integration of wearable technology and the brain. Specifically, understanding what cortical changes occur as the brain accommodates for new types of robotic prosthetics. I believe this will help to improve the functionality and usability of these devices in the future.