|Name of Representative||Dr James Kolasinski|
|Position||Henry Wellcome Fellow|
|Name of Employer/Organization||CUBRIC, Cardiff University|
Enhancing manual dexterity in older age
Ageing is commonly associated with a decline in dexterity. This process is associated with both a peripheral degeneration in the joints and muscles of the hands, as well as a degeneration in the regions of the human cortex associated with the control of touch and movement. Physical disability in old age is associated with a considerable social and economic burden: more must be done to allow people with diminished dexterity to continue to live independent lives. Dexterity relies on a combination of muscle and touch sensation: attempting to move with diminished sensory function in the hand results in clumsy and inaccurate movement. One approach to prolong residual dexterity in old age might be to enhance or amplify tactile signals. In this work, we take a first step in this endeavour, asking whether it is possible to robustly perceive similar but distinct complex haptic stimuli projected onto the hands in mid-air using ultrasound. By testing haptic thresholds across a range of motion stimuli, we were able to identify two axes of stimulation along which it is possible to robustly perceive the directionality of a stimulus in as little as 1-2 seconds. The pattern of haptic motion thresholds were strikingly consistent across participants, providing a strong impetus to further investigate haptics and the amplification of touch stimuli for enhanced sensory feedback to promote prolonged dexterous function in old age.