Haggard, Patrick

Mental and Neural Processes of Attention, Action and Body Representation

Name: Patrick Haggard
Email address: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Position: Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience
Primary affiliation: Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience (see my UCL webpage)
More Affiliations: Department of Psychology
Postal address: University College London, 17 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AR
Voice: (+44) 207 679 1153
Facsimile: (+44) 207 813 2835

My research focuses on the mental and neural representation of the body. The key brain systems studied are touch, proprioception and the voluntary motor system. The objectives are to understand the relation between primary bodily sensations such as touch, and the mental representation of the body and the self. Most studies begin with consciousness experience, and proceed to its neural bases: psychophysics followed up by TMS, fMRI and patient studies.

Key words: somatosensation; action; touch; proprioception; body representation; volition; intention.

- 1987. BA Degree in Natural Sciences (Psychology), University of Cambridge.
- 1991. PhD, University of Cambridge.

Positions and Employment:
- 1998-present. Research group leader, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience.
- 1995-present. Academic positions at University College London.
- 1991-1994. Postdoctoral Fellowship, Laboratory of Physiology, University of Oxford.

1) Visual modulation of touch: physiology and pathology

Viewing the body improves the sense of touch, relative to viewing a neutral object in the same location (Kennett et al., 2002). This effect appears to involve enhancement of tactile representation in early somatosensory cortex, and can ameliorate sensory deficits following stroke (Fiorio and Haggard, 2005). This project could investigate in further detail some of the following topics, according to student interest:
- the temporal dynamics of the effect, by giving vision and touch at different times in behavioural experiments.
- the cortical regions and connectivity underlying the effect, by using fMRI to identify visual and tactile regions activated during visual enhancement of touch, and modelling interactions between them.
- the cortical visual areas that generate the effect, using image-guided TMS to interfere with candidate regions known to be involved in visual body representation
- the rehabilitation potential of the effect, investigating whether specific visual-tactile training can produce general sensory benefits following stroke, and how long these may last.

2) Tactile space
The sense of touch depends on a somatotopic map in primary somatosensory cortex. Nevertheless explicit spatial judgments of tactile stimuli are generally poor. This project investigates the spatial organisation of touch, with a view to deciding whether there is a ‘tactile field’ akin to the visual field, and assessing how it is organised. We will compare the ability to interpolate and/or extrapolate between two simultaneous tactile stimuli, on one body part, or spanning across two body parts. The student will investigate whether tactile geometry involves a volumetric representation of the body, or occurs within a local skin-space (de Vignemont, Haggard and Erhsson, 2005).  Depending on student interest, the neural basis of such judgements could be pursed using TMS, fMRI, or studies of tactile spatial errors in neuropsychological patients.

1. Haggard P. Sense of agency in the human brain (2017). Nature Reviews Neuroscience 18, 196-207.
2. Azañón E, Stenner MP, Cardini F, Haggard P (2015). Dynamic tuning of tactile localization to body posture. Current Biology 25, 512-7.
3. Haggard P, Iannetti GD, Longo MR (2013). Spatial sensory organization and body representation in pain perception. Current Biology 23, R164-76.
4. Longo MR, Iannetti GD, Mancini F, Driver J, Haggard P (2012). Linking pain and the body: neural correlates of visually induced analgesia. The Journal of Neuroscience 32:2601-7.
5. Kammers MP, de Vignemont F, Haggard P (2010). Cooling the thermal grill illusion through self-touch. Current Biology 20:1819-22.
6. Longo MR, Haggard P (2010). An implicit body representation underlying human position sense. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 107, 11727-32.
7. Haggard P (2009). Neuroscience. The sources of human volition. Science 324, 731-3.
8. Haggard P (2008). Human volition: towards a neuroscience of will. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 9:934-46.
9. Brass M, Haggard P (2007). To do or not to do: the neural signature of self-control. The Journal of Neuroscience 27, 9141-5.
10. Tsakiris M, Haggard P (2005). The rubber hand illusion revisited: visuotactile integration and self-attribution. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 31, 80-91.


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