Ella Striem-Amit, PhD
Dr. Striem-Amit’s lab, the SAMP Lab (Sensory and motor plasticity), explores the extent to which brain organization depends on one’s own sensory or motor experience. The lab does this by studying models of early-onset sensory and motor deprivation using behavioral and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques.
The lab examines the neural processing of action in several groups who experience early sensory and motor deprivation, including the main study group: people born without hands.
How do these people, who use other body parts such as their feet to perform everyday actions, represent and generate actions usually performed with the hands? For example, what parts of the motor system represent the actions that are typically performed with a hand but are now performed with a foot? How does the brain’s wiring enable such plasticity? And what regions cannot reorganize for another effector but are truly specific for the hands as a topographical body part?
Understanding the plasticity and organization of the motor system has the potential to inform rehabilitation following hand function loss due to stroke or amputation and advance the development of functional motor prostheses.
Other research lines explore brain plasticity in other models of sensory deprivation, such as people born blind or deaf. We will study the commonalities and differences between sensory and motor deprivation. Furthermore, we will characterize the neural differences between deprivation of a whole sensory channel (being born completely blind or deaf) as compared to part of it (e.g. missing only the hands).
Overall, studying brain development, plasticity and organization across models, the lab will aim to gain insight of the general principles of how our brains develop and adapt.
Interested in joining the lab? Email me!