St Hilda's College
College news

Brain and Mind - Touch and the Brain

10 June 2024

"On Tuesday the 6th of May we held the third Brain and Mind event of the academic year. This year our theme was the senses, and we followed up Taste and the Brain (M.T.) and Sound and the Brain (H.T.) with Touch and the Brain in Trinity Term.

As with the past two Trinity Term Brain and Mind events, this one was hosted from Hamburg. Our speaker in Neuroscience was Professor Ulf Baumgärtner, Professor of Physiology at the MSH Medical School Hamburg, who talked about the relationship between touch and the feeling of pleasantness that can accompany this. In Psychology our speaker was Patrick Haggard, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London where he leads the Action and Body Group. Professor Haggard explored the connection between touch and spatial perception. Our philosophy speaker was Michael Martin, Professor of Mental Philosophy at the University of Oxford and Mills Adjunct Professor in the Dept of Philosophy, UC Berkeley. In his talk Professor Martin explored different ways in which the notion of a spatial sense field can apply to cases of touch and vision.

While this was a most stimulating event, it has to be admitted that we were let down by IT and there was some difficulty in hearing the speakers on both sides. For this reason, we decided on the spot not to take questions in an interactive format, but to hold separate question and answer sessions in Oxford in Hamburg. In Oxford Barnaby Burleigh negotiated the questions with Professor Haggard and in Hamburg Dr Avramides and Professor Glitsch continued the discussion with Professor Baumgärtner and Professor Martin. I can report that the room in Hamburg was full – with about 40-50 students - and, despite the difficulties, the students were most enthusiastic about the event. In the end no one seemed to want to leave and we continued the discussion for 45 minutes past the usual stopping time! The Executive Committee of Brain and Mind would like to thank our extremely loyal audience for their patience and apologize for the difficulties that were encountered in this final session of the year. For those who are interested in listening to the talks without any IT glitches, the recording of the event will be out on YouTube on the 1st July 2024. We encourage all to keep an eye on Eventbrite for the announcement of the 2024-25 Brain and Mind events which we hope to post over the summer."

Dr Anita Avramides, Emeritus Fellow