Everything that is going on

Paper TMS study on object lifting and weight perception accepted

In this study, I used TMS to investigate the role of two brain areas in the control of object lifting and the perception of object weight. THe paper is now available in Journal of Neurophysiology.

New preprint on TMS and the size–weight illusion

The size of an object influences how heavy an object feels. Could an area in the parietal cortex play a role in this illusion? We investigated this, and our latest preprint is now available.

Unexpected weights alter the brain response when observing lifting movement

A new experiment that I co-authored on the neural network involved in action observation is now published in Journal of Neuroscience. This work was performed by Guy Rens, in collaboration with Alessandro Botta, Mareike Gann, Jean-Jacques Orban de Xivry and Marco Davare: article in Journal of Neuroscience.

Paper accepted for Eurohaptics conference on density perception

Our conference paper for Eurohaptics has been accepted! In it, we show that when subjects have to estimate the density of objects, they are influenced by the object’s mass, and more so when objects are denser. This work was performed by my former master student, Lara Merken. I will present this research at the conference in September.

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My Research

What I do in the laboratory

In my research I am interested in the interaction between action and perception. The ‘actions’ I investigate are hand movements. Our hands are very important to interact with our environment: we use them all the time to manipulate objects.

The manipulation of an object starts with grasping and lifting it. This might seem easy, but if we don’t want to squeeze a fragile object such as an egg, for example, we have to scale our fingertip forces and grip to the object properties. At the same time, we receive information about these properties by getting feedback from sensors in the skin. This is very useful if we have never touched the object before as it allows us to learn how to handle it.

To investigate how hand movements and fingertip forces are planned and controlled during grasping and lifting objects of different sizes and weights, I use precise motion tracking and force sensors. Furthermore, I examine how humans adjust their movements to new sensory information or multi-sensory conflicts. I also investigate the perception of objects by using psychophysical techniques, for instance, by asking participants how large or how heavy they think objects are. By comparing these measures, I study how these perceptual and motor effects are related to each other.

In addition, I am looking at which brain areas are involved in the control of these action and perceptual systems. I use transcranial magnetic stimulation to stimulate the brain and evaluate how this affects the control of movements and the perception of objects.

Curriculum Vitæ

A brief overview of what I did before

I have a background in Human Movement Sciences and in psychophysics (the study of perception). After I finished my bachelor Human Movement Sciences at VU Amsterdam in the Netherlands, I continued to master Human Movement Sciences at the same university. As part of my master, I performed a research internship in at the Manchester Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom. In this project, I studied the eye–hand coordination in pointing tasks.

After graduating, I started a PhD on haptic perception at Utrecht University and continued this position after two years at the VU Amsterdam. During these four years, I investigated the haptic saliency of object properties with haptic search tasks. If a property is salient, this means it is processed very efficiently. Therefore, it can be felt very easily and quickly. In addition, I looked at the exploration movements that are made when haptically searching for object properties.

I currently work at the KU Leuven in Belgium, where I explore the relations between action and perception in grasping movements. At the Motor Control and Neuroplasticity lab, I have the opportunity to also investigate the brain areas that are important in controlling action and perception systems. Since 2017, my research is funded by an FWO post-doctoral fellowship.

Since 2017, I am a member of the junior board of the Belgian Society for Neuroscience.


The articles that I have published


  • Rens, G., Orban de Xivry, J., Davare, M.*, & Van Polanen, V.* (2020). Motor resonance is modulated by an object's weight distribution. BioRxiv 2020.10.11.335000.
  • Rens, G., Orban de Xivry, J., Davare, M.*, & Van Polanen, V.* (2020). Lift observation conveys object weight distribution but partly enhances predictive lift planning. BioRxiv 2020.06.21.163352.
  • Van Polanen, V., Buckingham, G. & Davare, M. (2020). Effects of TMS over the anterior intraparietal area on anticipatory fingertip force scaling and the size-weight illusion. BioRxiv 2020.05.18.101675.
  • Rens, G., van Polanen, V., Botta, A., Gann, M.A., Orban de Xivry, J., Davare, M. (2020). Sensorimotor expectations bias motor resonance during observation of object lifting: the causal role of pSTS. Journal of Neuroscience, 40, 3995–4009.
  • Merken, L. & van Polanen, V. (2020). Density estimation is influenced more by mass when objects are denser. In: Nisky I., Hartcher-O’Brien J., Wiertlewski M., Smeets J. (eds) Haptics: Science, Technology, Applications. EuroHaptics 2020. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol. 12272. Springer, Cham.
  • van Polanen, V., Rens, G. & Davare, M. (2020). The role of the anterior intraparietal sulcus and the lateral occipital cortex in fingertip force scaling and weight perception during object lifting. Journal of Neurophysiology, 124, 557–573.



  • Rounis, E., van Polanen, V., & Davare, M. (2018). A direct effect of perception on action when grasping a cup. Scientific Reports, 8, 171.
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  • Plaisier, M.A., van Polanen, V., & Kappers, A.M.L. (2017). The role of connectedness in haptic object perception. Scientific Reports, 7, 43868.
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  • van Polanen, V., Bergmann Tiest, W.M., & Kappers, A.M.L. (2016). A simple model of the hand for the analysis of object exploration. In: M. Bianchi, A. Moscatelli (Ed.) Human and Robot hands, 235–258. Springer International Publishing.
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  • van Polanen, V., & Davare, M. (2015). Sensorimotor memory biases weight perception during object lifting. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 9, 700.
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  • van Polanen, V., & Davare, M. (2015). Interactions between dorsal and ventral streams for controlling skilled grasp. Neuropsychologia 79, Part B, 186–191.
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  • van Polanen, V., Bergmann Tiest, W.M., & Kappers, A.M.L. (2014). Target contact and exploration strategies in haptic search. Scientific Reports 4, 6254.
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  • van Polanen, V., Bergmann Tiest, W.M., & Kappers, A.M.L. (2014). Parallel processing of shape and texture in haptic search. Acta psychologica 150, 35–40.
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  • van Polanen, V., Bergmann Tiest, W.M., Creemers, N., Verbeek, M.J., & Kappers, A.M.L. (2014). Optimal exploration strategies in haptic search. Eurohaptics 2014, Part I, LNCS 8618 (pp. 185–191). Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag.
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PhD Thesis

  • van Polanen, V. (2014). Findings in haptic (re)search (doctoral dissertation). VU University, Amsterdam.
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  • van Polanen, V., Bergmann Tiest, W.M., & Kappers, A.M.L. (2013). Integration and disruption effects of shape and texture in haptic search. PLoS ONE 8(7), e70255.
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  • van Polanen, V., Bergmann Tiest, W.M., & Kappers, A.M.L. (2012). Haptic search for hard and soft spheres. PLoS ONE 7(10), e45298.
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  • van Polanen, V., Bergmann Tiest, W.M., & Kappers, A.M.L. (2012). Haptic pop-out of movable stimuli. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics 74(1), 204–215.
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  • van Polanen, V., Bergmann Tiest, W.M., & Kappers, A.M.L. (2011). Movement strategies in a haptic search task. IEEE World Haptics Conference (WHC) 2011, (pp. 275–280). IEEE.
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  • Deconinck, F., van Polanen, V., Savelsbergh, G.J.P., & Bennett, S. (2011). The relative timing between eye and hand rapid sequential pointing is affected by time pressure, but not by advance knowledge. Experimental Brain Research 213, 99–109.
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