Everything that is going on

Poster presentation at Brain Stimulation Conference

I will present my results on the contribution of the motor cortex to force planning on Monday 25 February at the 3rd International Brain Stimulation Conference in Vancouver, Canada. If you are there, come have a look!

Two New Preprints Online

Recently, I have placed two preprints on bioRxiv, on sensory information in object lifting. The first article shows the importance of the dynamic phase in storing information of lifting experience. The second article is about the contribution of haptic and visual information in object lifting and weight perception. Both experiments were peformed using our nice virtual reality setup!

Flanders Science Day

Our motor control lab can be found at Flanders Science Day (Dag van de Wetenschap) again on 25 November, where we demonstrate various fun motor and perception tasks to the general public.

Poster at Society for Neuroscience Conference

Today, you can see my work at the annual conference of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego (US). Here, we look at the effects of TMS on the anterial intraparietal area on how forces are controlled and how weight is perceived when lifting objects of different sizes.

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.

In one of my projects, I am investigating how the scaling of forces is related to our perception of object weight. To investigate this, I use precise force sensors to investigate how forces are planned and controlled in the lifting of objects of different weight. I also ask participants how heavy they think objects are. By comparing these measures, we have recently found that the planned forces influence how heavy an object feels (van Polanen & Davare, 2015).

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.

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.


The articles that I have published


  • van Polanen, V., Tibold, R., Nuruki, A., & Davare, M. (2019). Visual delay affects force scaling and weight perception when lifting objects in virtual reality. Journal of Neurophysiology; doi:
    Read Article


  • van Polanen, V. & Davare, M. (2018). Sensorimotor memory for object weight is based on previous experience during lifting, not holding. bioRxiv 464693; doi:
    Read Preprint
  • Rounis, E., van Polanen, V., & Davare, M. (2018). A direct effect of perception on action when grasping a cup. Scientific Reports, 8, 171.
    Read Article


  • Plaisier, M.A., van Polanen, V., & Kappers, A.M.L. (2017). The role of connectedness in haptic object perception. Scientific Reports, 7, 43868.
    Read Article


  • 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.
    Read Chapter


  • van Polanen, V., & Davare, M. (2015). Sensorimotor memory biases weight perception during object lifting. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 9, 700.
    Read Article
  • van Polanen, V., & Davare, M. (2015). Interactions between dorsal and ventral streams for controlling skilled grasp. Neuropsychologia 79, Part B, 186–191.
    Read Article


  • van Polanen, V., Bergmann Tiest, W.M., & Kappers, A.M.L. (2014). Target contact and exploration strategies in haptic search. Scientific Reports 4, 6254.
    Read Article Download PDF (901KB)
  • 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.
    Read Article
  • 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.
    Read Article

PhD Thesis

  • van Polanen, V. (2014). Findings in haptic (re)search (doctoral dissertation). VU University, Amsterdam.
    Read Thesis (PDF)


  • 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.
    Read Article Download PDF (3,67MB)


  • van Polanen, V., Bergmann Tiest, W.M., & Kappers, A.M.L. (2012). Haptic search for hard and soft spheres. PLoS ONE 7(10), e45298.
    Read Article Download PDF (1,00MB)
  • 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.
    Read Article Download PDF (696KB)


  • 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.
    Read Article
  • 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.
    Read Article