Jun 13 (Thu) @ 11:00am: ”Biomechanical Transmission as a Channel for Touch Information in Human Tactile Sensing,” Neeli Tummala, ECE PhD Defense

Date and Time
Elings Hall, Room 1605


Touching an object with our hands generates skin oscillations that are biomechanically transmitted throughout the upper limb, exciting thousands of sensory neurons that convey touch information to the brain. In this dissertation, I investigate the implications of this neuromechanical process for human touch perception and engineering through data-driven computational modeling based on high-resolution skin measurements and grounded in linear systems theory. My findings establish that biomechanical transmission supports human tactile sensing by acting as a channel through which touch information is filtered and disseminated across large populations of sensory neurons. I also demonstrate how biomechanical transmission can be exploited in wearable technologies by presenting a device for digitally transcribing tactile sign language, a form of communication used by people who are deafblind. Ultimately, my work expands our understanding of the human tactile system and introduces principles and tools that could be leveraged for the design of haptic devices and for artificial tactile sensing in robotics and prosthetics.


Neeli Tummala is a Ph.D. candidate in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of California Santa Barbara where she is advised by Professor Yon Visell. Neeli earned her B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences from the University of California, Berkeley in 2018 and M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2020. Her research has been recognized through several awards, including Best Paper at the 2024 IEEE Haptics Symposium, Best Talk at the 2023 Festival of Touch symposium, and Best Paper Runner-Up at the 2022 IEEE Haptics Symposium. She has also been supported by several fellowships during her graduate studies including the UC Santa Barbara Graduate Opportunity Fellowship and the Link Foundation Modeling, Simulation, and Training Fellowship. Neeli’s research aims to advance our understanding of the mapping between physical interactions with the environment and touch perception, with applications spanning neuroscience, haptics and neuroengineering. 

Hosted by: Professor Yon Visell

Submitted by: Neeli Tummala <ntummala@ucsb.edu>