Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience


Shaping Plasticity

We study the role of behaviour in shaping brain plasticity.

How do altered patterns of motor behaviour affect brain organisation?

Our world is designed for bimanuals. Yet, individuals with a missing hand develop compensatory strategies with their body, allowing them to be fully functional. We are interested in characterising such compensatory behavioural strategies to their full complexity and determining how such altered behaviour shapes brain reorganisation.
Example papers: Hahamy et al., 2017, Curr Biol.Hahamy et al., 2015, eLife.

How are artificial limbs represented in the brain? 

While tremendous resources are dedicated to the development of cutting edge prosthetic limbs to aid amputees to cope with their disability, a staggering 50% of amputees do not use their prosthesis regularly. We believe that a better implementation of artificial limbs can only emerge from a true understanding of the cognitive and neurophysiological constraints of prosthesis representation and usage. Our work explores whether neural resources, uniquely developed for hand representation, become repurposed to support artificial limbs, and whether neural “embodiment” of prosthetic limbs can be improved.
Example papers: van den Heiligenberg et al., 2017, Psych. ScienceMakin et al., 2017, Nature Bio Eng.

Can we improve motor function through tactile learning?

Dexterous motor control critically relies on touch from the hand. We ask whether enhancement of touch perception, via perceptual learning, can be used to improve motor coordination?
Example papers: Dempsey Jones et al., 2016 J. Neurophys.; Harrar et al., 2014, JEP:HPP