Pitt | Swanson Engineering
Andrew Pruszynski Seminar (February 15, 2018)
Andrew Pruszynski Seminar (February 15, 2018)
February 15, 2018 | 04:00 PM - 05:00 PM | 157 Benedum

Tactile feature extraction starts in the skin, not the brain

Date: 2/15/2018 Time: 4:00 PM Location: 157 Benedum
Andrew Pruszynski
Canada Research Chair in Sensorimotor Neuroscience; Assistant Prof., Physiology and Pharmacology, Psychology; Western University in London, Ontario

A fundamental feature of first-order tactile neurons is that their distal axon branches in the skin and forms many transduction sites, yielding complex receptive fields with many highly sensitive zones. In this talk, I will first show that this anatomical arrangement constitutes a peripheral neural mechanism for extracting the geometric features of touched objects, a function typically considered a hallmark of sophisticated processing in the somatosensory cortex. I will then provide a mechanistic explanation, based on simple machine learning concepts, for why first-order tactile neurons have evolved spatially complex receptive fields - that is, that this peripheral organization helps network performance under realistic biological constraints, especially on harder tasks and in the presence of noise. Last, I will describe how this peripheral organization may support real world hand control and how knowledge about it should influence how we design interventions that aim to improve hand function after peripheral nerve injury.  



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