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Interdisciplinary Network of Researchers in Touch

Program detail

Friday 26th July, 2019

10:30-10:45: Symposium in Lecture Theatre, A01Dissociable effects of temporary input loss on tactile perception and learning

Harriet Dempsey-Jones, Andreas Themistocleus, Davide Carone, Tammy Ng, Vanessa Harrar, & Tamar Makin

Brain plasticity is critical for learning, adapting to change and recovering from injury. It has been suggested that removing sensory input could ‘free up’ brain territory to be used for other purposes. Despite decades of research, solid behavioural evidence is lacking. Here we wanted to harness plasticity to enhance perception in adults. We show that by removing touch input to a finger (using anaesthetic), touch sensation improves on the neighbouring finger. We also show anaesthetic can substantially enhance training designed to improve touch perception of other fingers. Importantly, our results indicate these two processes produce different patterns of sensory improvements. Our findings reveal a new way plasticity can be exploited to improve perception, with clear implications for rehabilitation.

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