We rely on our sensory systems to perceive and to understand the world.
Sensory information processing is important not only for perception but also for guiding our interactions with our environment. Given the complexity of our sensory environment, the nervous system has evolved specialized neural circuits that filter, combine, and refine the barrage of sensory signals we constantly encounter. The Yau Lab takes a multifaceted approach that integrates behavior, neuroimaging, neuromodulation, and modeling to gain insight on the principles underlying sensory information processing and how the human brain utilizes canonical operations to support perception and action.
Multisensory processing. A fundamental research question in the Yau Lab is whether common (or supramodal) neural circuits support temporal frequency processing for audition and touch. Outside of temporal frequency processing, the lab also has ongoing projects aimed at understanding time, space, and body perception from a multisensory perspective.
In addition to addressing a fundamental question regarding how the nervous system supports sensory processing, these experiments also provide critical insights that can motivate and inform neurorehabilitation interventions.
Cue integration in touch. Research on somatosensation has long focused on how tactile information on a single finger is processed and perceived, despite the fact that we typically use multiple fingers to palpate and manipulate objects.
The Yau Lab addresses this knowledge gap by specifically focusing on how the nervous system processes tactile information that occurs simultaneously on multiple body parts (e.g., separate fingers on the left and right hands). We have recently begun to address these new questions in preliminary experiments using virtual reality and motion tracking technology.
Computational neuroimaging methods provide insights into how unimanual and bimanual vibration frequency information is represented in the human brain. Forward encoding models successfully predict fMRI time series in individual voxels in sensorimotor cortex. Inverted models enable the decoding of unimanual and bimanual stimulation information from measured fMRI time series.
Cortical network plasticity following limb loss. Extensive sensorimotor cortical networks support the representation and control of our limbs. The Yau Lab also focuses on how cortical network organization changes with catastrophic limb loss resulting from injury or dysvascular disease.
Our recent studies have focused on mapping cortical organization in unilateral transtibial amputees. Aberrant activity in these regions could relate to common pathological experiences such as phantom limbs and pain, and understanding the trajectory of cortical changes following limb loss could offer insights into treating these experiences and improving rehabilitation outcomes.