A conversation about my Research

In this podcast, Editor-in-Chief Bill Yates (University of Pittsburgh) talks with Davide Filingeri (Loughborough University, UK) about his research into understanding how the human body interacts with our surrounding thermal environments, both physiologically (e.g. body temperature regulation) and perceptually (e.g. perception of temperature, wetness, touch and pain), and on how neurological diseases (e.g. Multiple Sclerosis) alter these physiological functions.

Listen to the Podcast here:


Paper accepted in Journal of Neurophysiology – Skin wetness perception and neuroprosthetics

We know that sensing skin wetness is critical in the context of human behavioral and autonomic thermoregulation. However, sensing skin wetness has important implications for object manipulation and manual function. In this recent Journal of Neurophysiology review we explore the biology of wetness sensing, its role in manual function, and the potential for its replication in upper limb neuroprosthetics.

Enjoy the read!

The biology of skin wetness perception and its implications in manual function and for reproducing complex somatosensory signals in neuroprosthetics

Davide Filingeri, Rochelle Ackerley


Our perception of skin wetness is generated readily, yet humans have no known receptor (hygroreceptor) to signal this directly. It is easy to imagine the sensation of water running over our hands, or the feel of rain on our skin. The synthetic sensation of wetness is thought to be produced from a combination of specific skin thermal and tactile inputs, registered through thermoreceptors and mechanoreceptors, respectively. The present review explores how thermal and tactile afference from the periphery can generate the percept of wetness centrally. We propose that the main signals include information about skin cooling, signaled primarily by thinly-myelinated thermoreceptors, and rapid changes in touch, through fast-conducting, myelinated mechanoreceptors. Potential central sites for integration of these signals, and thus the perception of skin wetness, include the primary and secondary somatosensory cortices and the insula cortex. The interactions underlying these processes can also be modeled to aid in understanding and engineering the mechanisms. Further, we discuss the role that sensing wetness could play in precision grip and the dexterous manipulation of objects. We expand on these lines of inquiry to the application of the knowledge in designing and creating skin sensory feedback in prosthetics. The addition of real-time, complex sensory signals would mark a significant advance in the use and incorporation of prosthetic body parts for amputees in everyday life.



In the figure:

Schematic of peripheral afferent inputs that may contribute to wetness perception.

The left side of the figure shows that thermoreceptive and mechanoreceptive afferents contribute to detecting and perceiving skin wetness. The right side of the figure shows how these signals may be recovered and used in a neuroprosthetic device, signaling both efferent motor commands and complex sensory feedback. The central areas that may generate the perception of wetness include those activated by tactile and thermal inputs (shown), as well as being subject to multisensory influences (e.g. vision) and cognitive processes (e.g. attention, learning).

Exciting PhD opportunity to investigate individual variability in thermoregulatory behaviour in humans for candidates who are sponsored or have their own funding


The thermal brain: investigating individual variability in thermoregulatory behaviour in humans


Applications are invited for a PhD program for candidates who are sponsored or have their own funding. The project will be based at the Environmental Ergonomics Research Centre, Loughborough University and will be performed under the supervision of Dr Davide Filingeri. Feel free to get in touch to discuss sponsorship as well as avenues to secure funding to support this PhD (email: d.filingeri3@lboro.ac.uk).

Project Description

In an attempt to reduce building energy consumption and its impact on climate change, the built environment is focusing more on the design and implementation of personalised comfort systems (systems directly cooling/heating the body of the occupant). However, to be effective, personalized indoor climate standards and applications should accurately represent the thermal demands of all occupants.

Unfortunately, due to limited research on individual differences in thermoregulatory behaviour and thermal preference of healthy and clinical populations (e.g. individuals with neurological diseases that impair thermal sensitivity), we are still far from reaching “comfort for all”.

The aim of this PhD will be to investigate individual variability in thermoregulatory behaviour, thermal sensitivity and thermal preference and to characterize its properties based on gender, age, body composition, and presence of neurological conditions. Successful applicants will be using a combination of physiological and psychophysical methods in human-based thermoregulatory research, and will be based at the Environmental Ergonomics Research Centre, which comprises 3 state-of-art climatic chambers.

Loughborough University is a top-ten rated university in England for research intensity (REF2014) and an outstanding 66% of the work of Loughborough’s academic staff who were eligible to be submitted to the REF was judged as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’, compared to a national average figure of 43%.

In choosing Loughborough for your research, you’ll work alongside academics who are leaders in their field. You will benefit from comprehensive support and guidance from our Graduate School, including tailored careers advice, to help you succeed in your research and future career.

Find out more: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/supporting-you/research/

Entry requirements

Applicants should have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 degree (or equivalent) in Human Biology, Neuroscience, Psychology, Ergonomics or Exercise Science.  A relevant Master’s degree and/or experience in one or more of the following will be an advantage: Human & Applied Physiology, Sensory Neuroscience, Human Factors and Ergonomics, research experience with clinical or non-clinical human participants.

All applications should be made online at http://www.lboro.ac.uk/study/apply/research/.  Under programme name, select ‘Loughborough Design School’

Please quote reference number:  LDS/DF/2017

Funding Notes

This is an open call for candidates who are sponsored or who have their own funding.

Free access to our latest paper on thermoreception

I am pleased to share this link to our recent paper titled “Warm hands, cold heart: progressive whole-body cooling increases warm thermosensitivity of human hands and feet in a dose-dependent fashion” recently published in the journal Experimental Physiology.

The paper is freely downloadable on the Experimental Physiology website so make sure you get a copy!

Experimental Physiology

The experiments described in the paper were performed during my Research Fellowship at the University of Sydney (Australia), with collaborators Mr Nate Morris and Dr Ollie Jay.

With this study, we were interested in understanding whether our ability to discriminate temperature on hands and feet changes as the body gets colder and colder. Interestingly, we found that as we get colder, we do indeed become more sensitive to warmth, but not cold, on hands and feet.  This enhanced warm sensitivity could be a mechanisms the body has developed to aid restoring homeostasis and comfort when this moves from our normal neutral  state.

Enjoy the reading.