Plasticity of the Sensorimotor System

Under this topic, we try to understand basic mechanisms of brain plasticity and sensorimotor learning as well as the effects of age. Based on experiments, interventions are developed to improve learning and to interfere with age-related decline. Our research mainly focuses on perception and motor action as more basic nevertheless well-established models of general brain functioning. However, even cognitive functions and particularly the interplay between sensory, motor, and cognitive performance and plasticity are addressed. Besides older adults above 65 years of age, we are also interested in middle-aged adults since later aging outcomes are very much predetermined during this life phase.

  • Within the Bremen-Hand-Study@Jacobs we apply behavioral tests and EEG to examine age and expertise effects on tactile perception and fine motor control as well as on tactile and motor learning across the working life and beyond. Manual dexterity is key for independent living in older age and thus knowledge about lifespan development and potential interventions for improved manual dexterity in older age is of significant societal importance. Even expertise in manual dexterity acquired during working life, such as in fine mechanics, opticians, or surgeons, may delay age-related decline on both the behavioral and the neural level.
  • As a follow-up of the Bremen-Hand-Study@Jacobs, in the TAPmusic study our overarching goal is to examine with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) how age and expertise affect the mutual balance between excitation and inhibition within the somatosensory cortex.
  • In the Gait & Balance project we develop and evaulate training interventions for elderly people for enhancing gati and balance and to reduce the risk for falls.
  • As part of a tri-national consortium in the framework of the ORA PLUS initiative with partners from University of Maastricht (Prof. W. Verwey), University of Michigan (Prof. R. Seidler), and Saarland University (Prof. S. Panzer) within the Re-LOAD project we  further investigate neurophysiological mechanisms of fine motor learning and the effectiveness of training interventions in different age groups .