ERC Consolidator grant (2017) awarded to Rochelle Ackerley

ARTTOUCH – Generating artificial touch: from the contribution of single tactile afferents to the encoding of complex percepts, and their implications for clinical innovation

Somatosensation encompass a wide range of processes, from feeling touch to temperature, as well as experiencing pleasure and pain. When afferent inputs are degraded or removed, such as in neuropathies or amputation, exploring the world becomes extremely difficult. The loss of a body part is common due to accidents, tumours, or peripheral diseases, and it has instantaneous effects on somatosensory functioning.

Understanding how detailed somatosensory signals are encoded will enable the restoration of healthy function, such as providing real-time, naturalistic feedback in prostheses. The present proposal aims to uncover how basic tactile processes are encoded and represented centrally, as well as how more complex somatosensation is generated (e.g. wetness, pleasantness).

Novel investigations will be conducted in humans to probe these mechanisms, including peripheral in vivo recording (microneurography) and neural stimulation, combined with advanced brain imaging and behavioural experiments. The knowledge gained aims to provide pain-free, efficient diagnostic capabilities for detecting and quantifying a range of somatosensory disorders, as well as identifying new potential therapeutic targets.

is a permanent CNRS researcher in the Multisense and Body team. She uses microneurography to record from and stimulate single afferents in the peripheral nerves of humans. She combines this technique with brain imaging (fMRI, EEG, MEG) and clinical approaches. The ARTTOUCH project (1.2 million euros, 2019-2023) was awarded from the European Research Council.