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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. The 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 are the London plasticity lab, led by Dr. Tamar Makin. We study the extent to which brain areas supporting perception and action are shaped by experience. In particular, we focus on the hand, which affords many of our physical interactions with the world. We investigate what happens to the cortical territories of the hand following arm amputation. We want to know why amputees experience vivid sensations of their missing hand many decades after amputation. We are also interested in how the brain best supports the acquisition of new skills necessary for the amputees to adapt to their disability, such as prosthetic limb usage. To understand these processes better, we combine experimental models, performed on healthy participants, and related clinical populations (e.g. individuals with congenital hand loss and the blind). Our research seeks to define the boundaries of plasticity - our brain's ability to adapt how it processes inputs based on changed experience.

Our major research areas are:


 

Group Members

Post-doctoral Research Fellows

Dollyane Muret

Dollyane Muret
d.muret@ucl.ac.uk

I am a postdoctoral researcher, with a biology background. I did my PhD and a first postdoc on tactile perception and brain plasticity. I am interested in understanding how the usage we do of our different body parts (i.e., both in terms of movement and touch) affects brain organisation in adults. Specifically, I investigate how the loss or absence of a hand (i.e., in amputees) modifies the way the other body parts are used in daily activities, and how this modified behaviour impacts brain organisation. To this aim, I combine different methods, from psychophysics to neuroimaging, but also brain stimulation.

See more about me

 

PhD Students

 
Elena Amoruso

Elena Amoruso
e.amoruso@ucl.ac.uk

I am a PhD student with a background in experimental psychology. I am interested in the role of adaptive behavioural strategies, which individuals develop to compensate for the missing hand, in driving cortical reorganisation. I will use fMRI and TMS to assess cortical reorganisation and its causality with adaptive behaviour. To examine compensatory strategies and their behavioural effects,  I combine ecological tasks with psychophysical measures in individuals with congenital and acquired upper-limb loss.

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.

Victoria Root

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

I’m a PhD student in Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Oxford. I am interested in the possible mechanisms behind the experience of phantom pain in acquired amputees. Specifically, I will be using an fMRI probability paradigm in combination with a predictive coding framework, to attempt to explain the chronicity of this condition. I am also interested in the reciprocity of the relationship between the primary sensorimotor cortices, and whether this can provide adaptive benefits to individuals.  

Hunter Schone

 

Hunter Schone

 

hunter.schone.16@ucl.ac.uk

I’m a PhD student with the UCL/NIMH joint doctoral program. I am interested in how the brain changes to meet the cognitive and motor demands of wearable robotic devices. My current research focuses on how the brain facilitates congenital and acquired upper-limb amputees to control an artificial prosthetic hand. Using a combination of fMRI and motor paradigms, I hope to better understand how amputees learn to control prosthetic hands to inform the design of prosthetic devices and prosthesis training protocols. 

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

 
Dani Clode

Danielle Clode
d.clode@ucl.ac.uk

I am a Research Assistant and Product Designer in Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL. My background is in prosthetic arm design and human extension exploration, and I’m interested in forming strong connections between design and neuroscience. My Masters degree project - the Third Thumb, is a 3D printed supernumerary robotic thumb, which is currently the main tool for a fMRI study on how the brain adapts to the usage of devices that augment the capabilities of the human hand. 

MRes/MSc Students 

Arabella Bouzigues

Arabella Bouzigues
arabella.bouzigues.18@ucl.ac.uk

I’m a MSc student in the Dual MSc in Brain and Mind Sciences at the Institute of Neurology (UCL). I am excited to be working on an fMRI project investigating how compensatory everyday behaviours in individuals who have either lost an upper-limb during their lifetime or were born without one impact functional cortical reorganisation. The outcome will hopefully shed some more light on the process of brain reorganisation, which I believe is vital for a better implementation of prosthetics in amputees but also of treatments in the wider population of neurological patients. 

Sam Cousins

Sam Cousins
sam.cousins.15@ucl.ac.uk

I am studying for an Integrated Master’s in Neuroscience at UCL. My research interests lie in how human augmentation with robotic limbs could improve our lives in the future. Currently I am training participants to use a robotic thumb, to determine the extent to which improved motor control correlates with hand-robot integration and altered hand representation. 

 
Cecile Klinguer

Cecile Klinguer
cecile.klinguer.18@ucl.ac.uk

I’m a MSc student in Neuroscience at UCL. I am interested in understanding how the somatosensory and the motor systems interact. In my research, I assess whether a period of tactile training can subsequently enhance motor abilities. Beyond gaining a better understanding of the reciprocal relationship between the sensorimotor systems, I hope my research will aid future developments of tactile feedback in prosthetic limbs.

Timothee Maniquet

Timothee Maniquet
timothee.maniquet.18@ucl.ac.uk

I’m a MSc student in Brain and Mind sciences at UCL. I am mainly interested in sensorimotor plasticity, and how it can be investigated in healthy individuals to improve clinical interventions in amputees. Specifically, I’ll be exploring the possibility of inducing plasticity in the motor cortex by training individuals with perceptual tasks.