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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: