Cognitive Neurosciences
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Nienke Debats

Faculty of Biology / Kognitive Neurowissenschaften
+49 521 106-5704 
Phone No. of Secretary:
+49 521 106-6861, Secretary's Details
UHG W3-248 , Locations Map

Research Interests

Being educated as a human movement scientist, my background is strongly multi-disciplinary. I have a broad research interest that centers on 'sensorimotor control', the continuous loop of perception and action that characterizes human behavior. This discipline covers the human ability to perceive the world through our senses, and our ability to act in the world by making voluntary movements. Perception is essential for adequate actions: we perceive our action possibilities, we act, we then perceive the consequences of our action, if needed we act again, etc... The other way around, action can also be essential for adequate perception. One example is that we actively rotate our eyes such that we focus is on the point of our interest. In a similar vein, active movements are also essential in haptic perception (i.e., 'active touch'). In order to feel the characteristics of an object (e.g., it's material, it's shape, it's mass) you have to move your hands over the object. I am interested in this intimate relationship between movements and touch perception. The general question that I aim to answer is: how do our movements influence what we perceive with our hands?

Curriculum Vitae

2013-present Postdoc project at Bielefeld University Project: THE - The Hand Embodied (
2008-2012 PhD project at VU University Amsterdam Title dissertation: "Exploratory movements in haptic perception" (
2006-2008 MSc Human Movement Sciences at VU University Amsterdam Specialization: Movement Coordination


[1] Debats NB, Ridderikhoff A, de Boer BJ & Peper CE (2013). Biases in rhythmic sensorimotor coordination: Effects of modality and intentionality. Behavioral Brain Research 250, 334-342.
[2] Debats NB, Kingma I, Beek PJ & Smeets JBJ (2012). Moving the Weber fraction: the perceptual precision for moment of inertia increases with exploration force. PloS ONE 7, e42941.
[3] Debats NB, Kingma I, Beek PJ & Smeets JBJ (2012). The precision of 'haptic' rod length perception is reduced by lack of visual precision. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 7283, EuroHaptics 2012, Part II, 19-24.
[4] Debats NB, Kingma I, Beek PJ & Smeets JBJ (2010). Muscular torque can explain biases in haptic length perception: a model study on the radial-tangential illusion. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 6192, EuroHaptics 2010, Part II, 392-397.
[5] Debats NB, van de Langenberg RW, Kingma I, Smeets JBJ & Beek PJ (2010). Exploratory movements determine cue weighting in haptic length perception of handheld rods. Journal of Neurophysiology, 104, 2821-2830.