Touch Assessment Workshop


On Wednesday 15 March 2023 9:00-17:00 SyMoN (Sensory Motor Neuroscience) Lab is running a Touch Assessment Workshop in the Hills Building at the University of Birmingham. The Hills Building is 5 minutes walk from University train station which is served by 5 trains an hour from New St (journey time 10 minutes). The workshop will comprise a series of talks in the morning with lots of opportunity for questions, followed by demos, lab tours and a closing panel discussion in the afternoon. There will also be an opportunity for those attending to present posters. The morning presentations will have a practical focus and will be aimed mainly at therapists and clinicians although we expect that researchers in behavioural science and engineering not familiar with touch measurement methods will also be interested. The charge for the day will be a nominal £30 towards the cost of coffee and a buffet lunch. Numbers will be limited to 50 people.

Mar 15, 2023 9:00 AM — 5:00 PM
Room 120 Hills Building - University of Birmingham
Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT


Touch Assessment Workshop at SyMoN Lab

Wed 15 March 9:00-17:00

Room 1.20 Hills Building, University of Birmingham

In case of travel issues preventing attendance, please ask for the zoom link for the morning session

9:00 Registration

9:15 Alan Wing: Welcome and overview

9.20-11:00 Talks session A (chair: Tina Jerosch-Herold)

T1. Alan Wing: Discriminative touch: neurophysiology and behaviour

T2. Nick Holmes: Primary somatosensory cortex and brain stimulation

T3. Fiona Newell: Cross-sensory interactions in tactile perception

T4. Ali Khatibi: Central sensitisation and pain processing in chronic conditions

T5. Max Di Luca: Touch in virtual reality.

11-11:20 Coffee and posters

11:20-13:00 Talks session B (chair: Alan Wing)

T6. Harriet Allen: Multisensory touch and aging

T7. Olivier Lambercy: Robot assessment of proprioception

T8. Ken Valyear: Measuring touch localisation: A new research tool. (via Zoom)

T9. Christina Jerosch-Herold: Assessing touch in a clinical setting

T10. Francis McGlone: A tale of two touches

13:00-14:00 Lunch and posters

14:00-15.30 Lab tours with demos

8 stations on a 10 minute rotation 6 people per group

D1) Becca Hirst Open Science Tools - Foyer

D2) Ali Khatibi Quantitative Sensory Test (QST) - Seminar room (H121)

D3) Diar Abdlkarim Obi robotics - Symonlab (H324)

D4) Roberta Roberts Adaptive tactile testing system - Symonlab (H324)

D5) Susan Li Mirror box - Posture lab (H229)

D6) Max Di Luca VR Delta - Posture lab (H229)

D7) Al Loomes Grating roughness, skin compliance – Neurorehabilitation (Kitchen) Lab (H224)

D8) Nick Holmes Grating orientation test - Foyer

15:30-16:00 Tea and posters

16:00 Closing discussion (chair: Alan Wing)

Andy Bremner, Aidan Adkins, Harriet Allen, Olivier Lambercy, Becca Hirst

17:00 Depart

Touch Assessment Workshop: Room 1.20, Hills Building, University of Birmingham

Workshop speakers

T1) Alan Wing, Professor of Human Movement, Sensory Motor Neuroscience Lab, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham.

Discriminative touch: neurophysiology and behaviour: When people categorise objects by touch they tend to use stereotyped “exploratory procedures” such as rubbing or pressing the finger to feel surface smoothness or softness. In my talk I will review the interaction between skin biomechanics and neurophysiology of tactile receptors that pick up cues to surface roughness from sliding or static contact. The perception of surface roughness is important both for appreciation of object qualities and in determining friction and grip when handling objects. I will finish my talk with a consideration of cortical processing of touch roughness information for perception and action.

Bio: Alan is Professor of Human Movement at the University of Birmingham. His first degree in Psychology at University of Edinburgh was followed by a PhD on movement timing at McMaster University in Canada and a postdoc on the same topic at Bell Labs in the USA. He then joined the staff of the MRC Applied Psychology Unit in Cambridge where he developed his interests in reactive and predictive control of movement and neurorehabilitation. He came to University of Birmingham in 1997 when he set up the Sensory Motor Neuroscience Lab. His current funding includes EPSRC Augmented reality music ensemble and BBSRC IAA Adaptive touch testing system.

T2) Nick Holmes, School of Sport Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Birmingham.

Primary somatosensory cortex and brain stimulation: The primary somatosensory cortices (S1) were the first to be numbered (anatomical regions 1, 2 and 3!) and many researchers have used brain stimulation methods such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to probe somatosensory function. In my talk I will relate my experience of trying to interfere with touch using TMS. In brief: it has not gone to plan. Apart from concluding that brain stimulation is difficult, we at least know that S1 is more involved in discriminating between tactile stimuli than in simply detecting their presence.

Bio: A new member of staff at Birmingham, Nick studies the perception of touch on the hand and the control of hand movements, mostly using TMS, behavioural methods, and recording movement and muscle activity. He has mostly worked with typically-developing adults, but is also interested in dyspraxia, the effects of brain lesions, and ageing. Before Birmingham, Nick was in Nottingham, Reading, Jerusalem and Lyon.

T3) Fiona Newell: School of Psychology and Institute of Neuroscience in Trinity College Dublin.

Cross-sensory interactions in tactile perception: Sensitivity in touch underpins our ability to perceive and interact with our environment. Tactile inputs about objects can be complemented by object information encoded by other senses, particularly vision. In my talk I will overview some of our findings on how these cross-sensory interactions affect perceptual decisions in touch.

Bio: Fiona is a graduate in Psychology from Trinity College Dublin. She obtained her PhD from the University of Durham, UK. Following post-doctoral training in various academic institutions including the Weizmann institute, Israel and the Max Plank Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Germany she returned to Trinity College in 2000 to take up a lectureship position in the School of Psychology. She is currently Professor of Experimental Psychology. Fiona leads the ‘Multisensory Perception and Cognition Group’ at the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience that conducts investigations into perceptual function in humans based on vision, touch and audition. Her research funding currently includes the EU (ICT programme), Science Foundation Ireland, Health Research Board of Ireland.

T4) Ali Khatibi, Center of Precision Rehabilitation for Spinal Pain, School of Sport Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Birmingham

Central sensitisation and pain processing in chronic conditions: Many chronic conditions that influence sensory processing (like chronic pain) are associated with changes in the function and structure of the central nervous system. These changes can lead to modified pain and sensory signals processing, leading to further complications. Therefore, the assessment of changes in the nervous system and the sensitisation in processing pain and sensory signals enables us to predict some upcoming complications and categorise patients based on the expected outcome. In this talk, we review the methods for the assessment of central sensitisation and evidence of CNS changes associated with them.

Bio: Ali is a senior research fellow in pain and neuroplasticity at the centre for precision rehabilitation of spinal pain at the University of Birmingham. He completed PhD in psychology at KU Leuven and postdoctoral training at the university of Montreal and Montreal Neurological Institute. His research is focused on the assessment of cognitive bias in the processing of pain and sensory information and functional and structural neuroimaging of the human brain and spinal cord.

T5) Max Di Luca, Reality Lab, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham.

Touch in virtual reality: In everyday life, humans grasp and manipulate objects without being aware that such interactions produce compelling and rich haptic (active touch) signals. Haptics in immersive VR interactions, instead, employ signals that are much more limited and could never reach the details of everyday signals. Rather than aiming for realism, VR haptics should increase believability, utility, and intuitiveness. Steering away from realistic content allows the creation of virtual experiences that are otherwise impossible in everyday life and that are “super” realistic.

Bio: Max performs both fundamental and applied research to investigate how humans process multisensory stimuli, with a focus on understanding perception's temporal, dynamic, and interactive nature. He uses psychophysical experiments and neuroimaging methods to capture how the brain employs sensory information and combines them with assumptions, predictions, and information obtained through active exploration. He aims to create computational models that constitute quantitative and testable theories about the underlying cognitive and neural processes. He is principal investigator on the EPSRC funded Augmented Reality Music Ensemble (ARME) project.

T6) Harriet A Allen, Professor, School of Psychology, University of Nottingham

Multisensory touch and aging: Texture perception is critical for wellbeing and function and declines with age but study of it has been neglected. One way that older adults are likely to compensate for peripheral sensory change is through capitalising on information available across several sensory modalities. At the same time, the signals from other senses, and cognitive function, are also likely to be changing or degrading. Perception of multisensory events in older adults is influenced by the reliability of unisensory signals. This talk will discuss how these different changes and declines affect perception.

Bio: Harriet is Professor in the School of Psychology, University of Nottingham. She leads the Lifespan Lab project and the Visual Ageing Lab. She is interested in how attention and perception interact and how these change through the lifespan.

T7) Olivier Lambercy, Rehabilitation Engineering Lab, ETH, Zurich

Robotic assessment of finger proprioception: Somatosensory deficits following neurological injuries are poorly investigated and rarely addressed during rehabilitation, despite the importance of somatosensory input in motor learning and control. In this talk I will discuss how robotic devices can provide complementary solutions to assess somatosensory impairment, and in particular finger proprioception. Specifically, I will present the development of the ETH MIKE platform, and building on the results of our clinical trials, underline how sensitive and objective digital health metrics can help characterize proprioception impairments and their evolution in neurological patients.

Bio: Olivier is a Senior Scientist and the co-Director of the Rehabilitation Engineering Laboratory at ETH Zurich. He obtained the PhD degree in Mechanical Engineering from the National University of Singapore in 2009. His research focuses on the development and clinical application of technological solutions to improve upper limb assessment, therapy and assistance after neurological injuries.

T8) Ken Valyear, Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor), School of Human and Behavioural Sciences, Bangor University

Measuring touch localisation: A new research tool. The ability to accurately localise touch is important for healthy sensory experience and movement, and breaks down after various types of injuries and illnesses. This talk will introduce our lab’s recent work in developing a clinical research tool for the detailed characterisation of touch localisation on the hand. A next challenge for us is to determine how we might revise this tool for practical use in the clinic.

Bio: Ken is a brain scientist interested in how the hand and brain function together. His group uses various methods to characterise hand and brain function, and understand how they relate. The aim is to advance new knowledge of the functional interplay between the hand and brain and use this knowledge to help solve significant clinical challenges.

T9) Christina Jerosch-Herold, Professor of Rehabilitation Research, School of Health Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich

Assessing touch in a clinical setting: My presentation will focus on a current framework and methods for assessing recovery of touch function in patients with sensory nerve disorders of the hand in a clinical setting. The need for novel technologies and remote methods of assessment are highlighted especially in the context of more efficient study designs and what outcomes of surgical and rehabilitative interventions matter to patients, clinicians and funders.

Bio: Tina started her career as a practising hand therapist where she developed a particular interest in nerve injuries. Following completion of a Masters and PhD on clinical assessment methods for peripheral nerve injuries, she held several NIHR research fellowships that enabled her to undertake clinical trials and observational studies on carpal tunnel syndrome and co-developed the I-HaND, a patient-reported outcome measure for hand nerve disorders.

T10. Francis McGlone: Professor of Neuroscience, Research Centre Brain & Behaviour, Liverpool John Moores University.

A tale of two touches: The sensory experience that most of us associate with touch is interacting with tools, objects, and bumping into each other as we navigate the physical world. This sense of touch is dependent on fast conducting A-beta myelinated nerves and their associated low threshold mechanoreceptors found in the skin, joints and muscles – it is discriminative. However, there is a second sense of touch that is mediated by a population of gentle touch sensitive c-fibres called c-tactile afferents (CT), discovered in humans by Swedish neurophysiologists in the late 1980’s. CTs, being unmyelinated, conduct information into the CNS too slowly to have any role in ‘detection for action’ and are hypothesised to code for the affective / emotional properties of touch. In this talk I will discuss their role in shaping the destiny of the social brain.

Bio: Francis is Head of the Somatosensory & Affective Neuroscience group @ LJMU (, Visiting Prof at University of Liverpool and Aarhus University, Finland. His research focus is on c-fibres, spanning the functional properties of nociceptors, pruriceptors and latterly ‘hedonoceptors’.

Workshop demonstrators

D1) Rebecca Hirst Open Science Tools, Nottingham

Conducting cognitive measurements online via PsychoPy and

Bio: Becca is Chief Science Officer and a Director at Open Science Tools (creators of PsychoPy and as well as a postdoctoral researcher at Trinity College Dublin. Her own research focuses on multisensory perception and attention across the lifespan.

D2) Ali Khatibi Sport Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Birmingham

Quantitative Sensory Test (QST)

Bio: see above

D3) Diar Abdlkarim Obi robotics and Reality Lab, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham

The obi robotics reach data glove

Bio: Diar is postdoctoral research fellow on the Augmented Reality Music Ensemble (ARME) project. He obtained his PhD on Sensorimotor integration and virtual reality with Chris Miall in 2022.

D4) Roberta Roberts, Sensory Motor Neuroscience Lab, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham.

Adaptive tactile testing system

Bio: Roberta is senior research fellow in Psychology and divides her time between the Sensory Motor Neuroscience Lab and the Motivation and Social Neuroscience Lab at the University of Birmingham. She obtained her PhD on Bilateral interactions in kinaesthesia with Glyn Humphreys in 2005.

D5) Susan Li, Sensory Motor Neuroscience Lab, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham.

Mirror box – illusory conjunction of vision and touch.

Bio: Susan is postdoctoral research fellow on the Augmented Reality Music Ensemble (ARME) project. She obtained her PhD on Multisensory timing with Max Di Luca in 2018.

D6) Max Di Luca, Virtual Reality Lab, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham.

Virtual reality with the Delta 3-dof haptic robotic device

Bio: see above

D7) Al Loomes, Sensory Motor Neuroscience Lab, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham:

Grating roughness and skin compliance.

Bio: Al is working on a PhD on aging touch and multisensory roughness perception with Alan Wing and Harriet Allen as supervisors.

D8) Nick Holmes, Sport Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Birmingham

Grating orientation test

Workshop Panel

Andy Bremner

Aidan Adkins

Harriet Allen

Olivier Lambercy

Becca Hirst

Workshop coordination

Alan Wing, Denise Clisset, Megan Ashfield, Tadiwa Mbiri, Vojtech Ryp