THE HEARING BODY: How auditory perception influences body representation

Thursday 14/03/2013 13:00-14:00
Location: Brunel University, Howell Building, Room H313
Speaker: Dr Ana Tajadura-Jiménez , ESRC Future Research Leader at UCLIC (UCL Interaction Center, University College London)

The sense of our physical body is crucial for our interaction with our environment, being tightly linked to action-awareness and self-esteem. This mental representation we have of our body is not fixed, but it continuously updates in response to the present sensory information, as shown for vision, touch and proprioception. Currently, there is no solid evidence linking auditory information to body-representation, although the sounds that accompany almost every bodily movement are highly rich in information about the body and the space immediately surrounding it. For instance, the sounds produced when tapping on a surface with the hand inform us about the length and strength of our arm. In this seminar I will present “The Hearing Body” project, in which I am currently investigating the importance of audition for body-representation. A series of psychological experiments in adult participants explore the effect of manipulating self-produced sounds in real-time by quantifying the potential update in the perceived boundaries of the body, the perceived possibilities for action, and the bodily-related emotional state. This multidisciplinary and innovative research methodology aims to yield novel insights into the nature of the sense of body and, ultimately, to guide the design of audio-based applications that improve self-image, self-esteem, action patterns and social interaction to support wellbeing and self-directed rehabilitation for people suffering from action/body distortions and movement impairments. The extensive use of headphones and wearable devices (e.g. Apple iPod), and the increasing market for motion sensing input devices (e.g. Microsoft Kinect, e-textile) in society today, suggest excellent possibilities for these sound-based applications.

Ana Tajadura-Jiménez is an ESRC Future Research Leader at UCLIC (UCL Interaction Center, University College London). Her research interests are multisensory and self-perception, as well as emotional processing in everyday contexts and new media technologies. Her approach to research is essentially empirical and interdisciplinary, bringing together perspectives from psychoacoustics, neuroscience and computer sciences. Ana received her BSc in Telecommunication Engineering at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain. She also received a Master’s in Digital Communication Systems and Technology in 2002 and a PhD in Psychoacoustics in 2008, both at Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden. Her doctoral thesis subject was auditory-induced emotion, multisensory perception, and embodiment, with a perspective emphasizing the idea that the body is strongly connected to the information processing. This work was framed by presence and virtual reality research and focused on external cues that may contribute to the self-representation thus favoring embodied experiences in mediated environments. From 2009 to 2012, she was a Postdoctoral Researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK, where she investigated multisensory and body perception. Currently, she is investigating the influence of self-produced action sounds on body-representation within the ESRC-funded The-Hearing-Body project that she leads and a multidisciplinary project within the VolkswagenStiftung platform. She has co-authored a number of papers and book chapters on auditory and multisensory perception, emotional processing and self-perception.