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Paula Rowe

Department of Psychology

Cognitive Neuroscience Research Unit

E: paula.rowe.1@city.ac.uk

Thesis title: The temporal nature of affordance: An investigation using TMS and EEG

Supervisor: Dr Kielan Yarrow and Dr Corinna Haenschel

Higher educational background

  • MSc Neuroscience from King's College, London
  • BSc Physics (Hons) from The Open University


Paula is looking at the temporal nature of affordance. When we observe a manipulable object or tool, there is automatic brain activity (an affordance) preparing us to grasp or grip that object, whether or not we choose to do so.

A common practice in stroke rehabilitation is to position manipulable objects within reach of the patient. In some cases, recovery is severely hindered by the inability to grasp the object, even though the intention is present and the physical movement is possible.

The onset, duration and offset of affordances will be investigated, firstly in healthy subjects and then in a patient population. The intention is to find an optimum object viewing time to produce the strongest affordances. The results may then be translated to a rehabilitation setting. Brain activity will be monitored by EEG and TMS.

Research interests

  • Affordances
  • Plasticity
  • EEG and TMS

Current Experiment

I am investigating brain activity in stroke survivors with remaining upper limb or hand apraxia. Ultimately, the hope is that this knowledge may lead to improved stroke rehabilitation methods.

The experiment takes place in one of our EEG laboratories and is totally safe, non-invasive and doesn’t hurt.

We are looking at some specific brain activity in people who have had a stroke and have some remaining apraxia and also in people of a similar age who have not had a stroke. There will be about 20 participants in each group.

If you are interested in taking part, here is an outline of what will happen:

When you arrive, prior to the experiment there is:

  1. a short questionnaire relating to handedness
  2. a short cognitive assessment
  3. a ‘9 hole peg test’ which tests manual dexterity.

These are not clinical assessments but are similar to tests used in other studies and so are helpful in relating our findings to that of other groups.

The main experiment involves viewing objects on a computer screen through a 3D viewer. There is time to adjust the viewer to individual vision and comfort.

We will measure your head to get the correct size of EEG cap (similar to a swimming cap). When it is correctly positioned we use a saline solution gel to get good connections between the scalp and the electrodes. (The gel can be washed out with ordinary shampoo). Setting up takes around 30 minutes.

While EEG activity is being recorded you will be asked to sit in 2 different postures. One is with your body turned slightly away from the screen with your left hand placed on the desk. The other is turned slightly the other way with your right hand placed on the desk.

The task is simply to view objects through the viewer. You will not be required to make any response except when 2 specific objects appear and then just to say their names aloud.

The main experiment is likely to last for about 2 hours and you will be offered breaks throughout this time.

Upon completion, you will be provided with hair washing facilities (shampoo, conditioner, towel, hair dryer, etc.), should you wish to wash your hair before leaving the lab.

General information about EEG

For a full Participant Information Sheet and enquiries, please send an email paula.rowe.1@city.ac.uk.


Hadar, A. A., Rowe, P., Di Costa, S., Jones, A. & Yarrow, K. (2016). Motor-evoked potentials reveal a motor-cortical readout of evidence accumulation for sensorimotor decisions. Psychophysiology, 53, 1721-1731.

Rowe, P. J., Haenschel, C., Kosilo, M. & Yarrow, K. (2017). Objects rapidly prime the motor system when located near the dominant hand. Brain and Cognition. 113, 102-108. Freely available until 25th March 2017 at ScienceDirect.