Tact, Touch and Proprioception: The Culture and Neuroscience of Touch (2014-2015)

The sense of touch has traditionally been a poor cousin in philosophy, where the place of honor has been held by sight. But where there is a visible, there is also an invisible, and the invisible has always been the domain of predilection for the tactile, for a perception and proprioception guided by tact.

The double meaning of tact, simultaneously designating the tactile and the tactful, was at the heart of the work of this project team. Team members traced the cultural manifestations of the history of the notion of tact and connected them to an emerging neuroscientific understanding of the tactile system and its important contribution to understanding the body in space and the physical forces acting on it.

The relationship between touch and the broader question of how proprioception contributes to the bodily sense of self allows a more complex reflection on what cultural tact actually means. Three main areas of concentration framed the work of the team: 1) the cultural history of the notion of tact; 2) the brain structures and networks that process touch and proprioception; and 3) the biomechanics of movement and intentional awareness of bodily spatial bearing. Team members worked with literary and cultural texts, studied and experiment with the neuroscientific manifestations of the system of touch and proprioception and learned about movement assessment and body awareness in the domain of human physical performance and physical therapy.

Team Outcomes

Tact, Touch and Proprioception: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Grace (project website)

Tact, Touch and Proprioception (poster by Belex Cheng, Danalaxshmi Shanen Ganapathee, Luxi Wan)

This Team in the News

Shanen Ganapathee: Exploring the Intersection of Art and Science

Faculty Perspectives: David Bell

Team Leaders

  • David Bell, Arts & Sciences-Romance Studies
  • Robert Butler, School of Medicine
  • Leonard White, School of Medicine-Neurology

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Sally Al Khamees, Computer Science (BS)
  • Yun Cheng, Psychology (AB)
  • Danalaxshmi Ganapathee, Program II (BS)
  • Luxi Wan, Biology (BS)