Influences of proprioceptive illusions on human action

Research indicates that people can experience sensory illusions when visual and tactile information are spatially separated. This has important implications for telesurgery, a procedure that permits surgery to be performed at a distance, but where information from the touch of hands and visual information presented on a monitor are separate and feedback is delayed. Manipulating tools under these conditions has not been as precise as hoped for. Erin Austen’s research is studying how a misperception of limb position and movement can affect the ability to accurately grasp, reach or move objects. She is also identifying ways to minimize any negative impact of such sensory illusions. The results of this research will increase understanding of how the brain coordinates behaviour and will contribute to the design of new technology in telesurgery, prosthetic limbs, telerobotics used to perform actions from a distance, and miniaturized tools for minimally invasive surgical procedures.