Active Touch Laboratory at Sheffield
The Active Touch Laboratory uses methods in animal behaviour, neuroethology, human psychophysics, computational modelling and robotics to investigate tactile sensing in animals, people and intelligent machines.
|Meet the lab||
Dr Hannes Saal (Director)
I use human psychophysics, computational modeling, and applied machine learning in order to elucidate the fundamental computations allowing us to make sense of our environment through touch.
My research explores the interaction between evolution and development in the context of mammalian somatosensory systems. In particular, I am interested in how self-organisation can interact with natural selection in the context of i) self-organisation of topological maps in rodent barrel cortex, ii) self-organising thermoregulatory huddling behaviours in rodent litters.
I investigate active touch sensing in animals, humans and robots, focusing on (i) the evolution of the mammalian somatosensory system, (ii) multisensory perception and memory, (iii) haptic interaction and emotional touch in biomimetic robots, and (iv) haptic interfaces for sensory augmentation and telepresence.
I'm a research associate with experience in comparative neuroanatomy, cell culturing, multichannel electrophysiology and immunocytochemistry. Utilising my programming and data analysis/data modelling skills I'm working on the modelling of the responses of afferent fibres of the foot sole. In addition, I'm also a guest lecturer for the computational neuroscience module.
My research on active touch sensing focuses on its role in generating functional spatial percepts that drive local motion planning through spatial attention and global motion planning through mapping and navigation systems. I investigate these themes through computational modelling and through the construction of biomimetic robots.
Laura R Edmondson (PhD student)
I am a PhD student supervised by Hannes Saal & Stuart Wilson. My research focuses on modelling somatosensory cortex using dimensionality reduction techniques and self-organising models. I am interested in the mechanisms which determine the topography and magnification of the hand seen in the primary somatosensory cortex of both humans and non-human primates.
Giulia Corniani (PhD student)
I am a PhD student supervised by Hannes Saal. I am part of the NeuTouch project, included in the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. My research focuses on the spiking models of realistic human tactile interactions. I am interested in the development of a computational method that translates sensor input into spiking output to deliver realistic and real-time tactile feedback for neuroprosthetics and robotics.
Luke Cleland (CCN MSc student)
I am currently a student on the Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience Masters. My research focuses on proprioception and relates to the representation of the hand in the somatotosensory cortex. I investigate how the representation in the brain may change depending on the use of the hand.
Zimeng Wan (CCN MSc student)
I am a MSc Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience student. My research focuses on markerless tracking of hand movement, especially grasping and manipulation. I investigate the hand kinematic mechanism through developing and testing computational methods based on deep learning techniques.
Jonathan Jones (CCN MSc student)
I am a Masters student in Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience. My research concerns investigating how deep convolutional neural networks transform the geometric and statistical structure of internal neural representations of input datasets as a simple model for sensory processing. These models are particularly relevant to studying sensory representations, as representations in late layers of deep convolutional networks trained for categorisation have been shown to exhibit a high degree of similarity with human fMRI data from IT cortex.
Nicholas Garside (CCN MSc student)
My MSc research project explores the theory behind tactile distance biases and aftereffects, which occur when the perceived tactile distance is greater than the actual distance. I will attempt to explain how these biases can arise from the cortical receptive field structure, through modelling the neural encoding and decoding of touch stimuli.
2018-19 Nathan Darnley (CCN MSc)
|News and resources||