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Tamar Makin

Associate Professor & Sir Henry Dale Fellow

My research focuses on multisensory brain reorganisation in body representation. My primary model for this work is individuals with a hand-loss. Amputation is a particularly powerful model for studying plasticity as it combines two major drivers for reorganisation – sensory deprivation and adaptive motor behaviour. 

Following amputation of the hand, the brain will undergo extensive organisational changes due to both the loss of multisensory input from the absent hand, and as a result of acquiring new skills with the intact hand or prosthesis. Some of these neural changes might be advantageous for the amputee but other changes may be damaging, and might even result in chronic pain that is felt in the amputated hand (i.e., 'phantom' limb pain).

I'm interested in identifying structural and functional reorganisation in the brains of amputees, as well as other clinical populations suffering from sensory loss (e.g. individuals with congenital limb deficiency). I'm particularly interested in identifying neuronal changes that might be relevant for the rehabilitation process (e.g. prosthesis usage, phantom pain). For this purpose, I integrate tools from the fields of neuroimaging, experimental psychology and rehabilitation, with a particular focus on both the visual and sensorimotor systems. I also use non-invasive brain stimulation techniques to attenuate maladaptive plasticity and enhance adaptive plasticity. Along with my work in patients, I also conduct basic research on healthy humans using experimental models of our clinical work to better understand the boundaries of plasticity in the adult brain. 

I joined FMRIB in 2009, first as a Newton International Fellow (Royal Society), and later as a Marie Curie Early Career Development Fellow (European Commission), to lead a research programme on brain plasticity associated with hand-loss. In 2014, I was awarded the Sir Henry Dale Fellowship to found the Hand and Brain Group to extend this research further. 

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