Job ID: 106402

PhD project – Cutaneous control of voluntary finger movements

Position: Ph.D. Student

Deadline: 2 April 2023

Employment Start Date: 2 October 2023

Contract Length: 3 years

City: Marseille

Country: France

Institution: Aix Marseille Université

Department: Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives (LNC)


The NeuroSchool PhD Program of Aix-Marseille University (France) has launched its annual calls for PhD scholarships for students with a master’s degree in a non-French university.

The following project is one of the 14 proposed projects. Not all proposed projects will be funded, check our website for details.


State of the art

Touch is paramount for our interaction with the physical world. Indeed, the mechanical deformation of the skin when touching objects stimulate different types of skin mechanoreceptors providing the central nervous system with various information about the properties of the touched objects (e.g., size, texture, compliance, shape, …, see Johnson 2001 for a review). The cutaneous system also provides information about the relative motion between the skin and the objects (e.g., direction and speed, Aimonetti et al. 2007; Chancel et al. 2016). Most of the studies on the function of the cutaneous information have focused on perceptual outcome of touch. Very few studies have addressed the motor functions of cutaneous information other than its functions in grip force adjustments for preventing slippage of handheld objects (see Johansson & Flanagan 2019 for a review).

Our team has recently discovered that when tracing the contour of a shape with the fingertip with biased visual feedback of the finger motion, the tracing performance is more degraded when finger tactile information is available during the tracing than when it is not (Vlachou et al. 2023). Because the processing of somatosensory information in the context of a conflict between visual and somatosensory feedbacks worsens tracing performance (Bernier et al. 2019), this finding indicates that cutaneous information contributes to the control of tracing movements, even when visual feedback is available.


The goal of the present thesis proposal is to investigate the neural bases of the cutaneous control of finger movements. In particular, a thorough exploration of the adaptability of the cutaneo-motor system and of the effect of this adaptation on the peripheral and central processing of cutaneous inputs will be undertaken.

Expected results

Because the cutaneous cues contribute to the control of movement, we predict that the relationship between cutaneous input and motor output is adaptable. This adaptation should have both behavioural and neurophysiological signatures.


Research from our team focuses on the neural bases of voluntary movements. We have the knowhow and all the required materials to start and complete the projects of this thesis proposal. Some experimental protocols have already been accepted by the CERSTAPS ethic committee (no. IRB00012476-2021-09-12-140).

Expected candidate profile

Master degree in Neuroscience, Psychology or Sport sciences; Research experience in sensory and/or motor systems; valued team worker; good reading and writing skills in English.


Aimonetti, Hospod, Roll, Ribot-Ciscar et al. (2007) J Physiol 580.2 : 649–658

Bernier, Burle, Vidal, Hasbroucq, Blouin (2009) Cereb Cortex 19: 2106-2113

Chancel, Blanchard, Guerraz, Montagnini, Kavounoudias (2016) J Neurophysiol 116: 1522–1535 Johnson (2001). Curr Opin Neurobiol 11 : 455-461.

Vlachou, Legros, Sellin, Simoneau, Mouchnino, Blouin (2023). 15ème Journée de la Recherche en Neurosciences, Québec 6 février 2023