Social Brain, Body and Action Lab
Principal Investigator: Dr. Sukhvinder Obhi
Research Summary: The human brainís ultimate function is to enable the human body to interact with objects and other organisms in the environment. Understanding the processes underlying human action requires careful consideration of perceptual and motor mechanisms and the higher level cognitive mechanisms that guide them. Research in the Cognition in Action Laboratory lies at this complex interface between perception, action and cognition and addresses two main questions. One line of inquiry seeks to determine the various routes by which the products of neural processing in temporal, parietal and frontal brain regions converge on the primary motor cortex, and to identify the task-specific factors that necessitate these different neural routes. To study such questions Dr. Obhi performs experiments in which the required motor output is held constant, but the context in which the output is made changes. A second line of inquiry examines interactions between perception and action. In particular, we attempt to identify perceptual and motor sources of interference in interlimb coordination, and to determine how perceptual information can be manipulated to reduce such interference. Lastly, other research projects seek to determine how action influences perception, and the mechanisms that enable humans to understand the mental states of others simply through observing their actions. Hence, research in the Cognition in Action Laboratory focuses on both neural processes (i.e., those to do with localization of function in the human brain) and functional processes (i.e., those to do with the identification of factors that affect performance). In order to study these two processes, a variety of tools are employed. These include the neural intervention technique of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), and behavioural measures such as reaction time and movement recording.
Implications of the Research: Research in the Cognition in Action Laboratory is vitally important for improving our understanding of how the brain enables us to act as we do in everyday life. Research findings from the Cognition in Action Laboratory will contribute significantly to the development of rehabilitation programs for neurologically impaired individuals. In addition to these clinical implications, research from the Cognition in Action Laboratory will contribute to the design and delivery of training systems for highly skilled professionals such as surgeons, dentists, musicians, task-critical computer operators, athletes and military personnel.