Tobias Heed

Tobias Heed

Full Professor

PLUS Faculty of Natural and Life Sciences

Department of Psychology

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I studied Business Administration at the Berufsakademie in Stuttgart and Psychology at the Philipps-University Marburg. After a PhD & Postdoc at the University of Hamburg's Biopsychology I established the Reach & Touch Lab as an Emmy Noether Junior Research Group at Hamburg's Psychology Department. In 2016, I moved the lab to Bielefeld University as Professor for Biopsychology & Cognitive Neuroscience, and in 2021 to the University of Salzburg's Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience as Professor for Cognitive Psychology.

I am fascinated by how we coordinate our bodies to interact with our environment, and how we relate the world to our body. In my research, I start at a basic level and ask how the brain manages seemingly simple things like perceiving touch and performing arm reaches. My aim is to tease out how such simple processes lead to more complex phenomena such as a perception of self, an understanding of space, and the ability to merge information from the different senses into an integrated whole. My work has focused on two aspects of this fascination with the body: our sense of touch, and movements with different body parts or, as we call them, effectors.

Touch and the body in space

Our sense of touch is especially important in determining who we are: after all, the skin is the border between our body and the world. But because we have very versatile bodies, the information about where our body is and where one body part is relative to another, is constantly subject to change. Thus, although our body is somehow "always the same" with its anatomy and body parts, it is also "constantly different" because its configuration in space changes from moment to moment. One of my research foci is the interaction between these two sides of ourselves in space.


We don’t perceive things (like touch) just for their own sake. Instead, we perceive so that we can make decisions about which actions to take next. In many situations we could, in theory, use many ways to achieve our current goals. Just think of opening your door after coming home from a shopping trip. Normally, you’ll use your dominant hand to press the door’s lever. But if you are carrying a shopping bag, you might use your other hand. Or, if you are carrying a big box with both hands, you might use your elbow, knee, or foot to open the door. How the brain is able to keep “in mind” these different options and choose between them is a second focus of my group’s work.

Bringing it together

No movement occurs without creating tactile sensations. And when we want to move towards a touch we've just felt, we can't use the body part that was touched, but must choose a different body part to perform the reach. These are but two examples of how movement and somatosensation – our sense of touch and proprioception – are inseparably intertwined. I'd love to know how it all works. It's what drives my research and keeps me curious.



Limb, not touch location, is coded in 3D space
Tobias Heed, Julia Burbach, Nele Rödenbeck, Boukje Habets, Patrick Xaver Fuchs


Exploring the response code in a compatibility effect between physical size and left/right responses: The hand is more important than location
Christian Seegelke, Melanie Richter, Tobias Heed, Peter Wühr
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Dynamic spatial coding in parietal cortex mediates tactile-motor transformation
Janina Klautke, Celia Foster, W. Pieter Medendorp, Tobias Heed
Nature Communications
Prior movement of one arm facilitates motor adaptation in the other
Magdalena Gippert, S. Leupold, Tobias Heed, I. S. Howard, A. Villringer, V. V. Nikulin, B. Sehm
Journal of Neuroscience
Tactile training facilitates infants' ability to reach to targets on the body
Eszter Somogyi, Mollie Hamilton, Lisa K. Chinn, Lisa Jacquey, Tobias Heed, Matej Hoffmann, Jeffrey J. Lockman, Jacqueline Fagard, J. Kevin O'Regan
Child Development
The hands' default location guides tactile spatial selectivity
Stephanie Badde, Tobias Heed
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America


Allocation of visuospatial attention indexes evidence accumulation for reach decisions
Carolin Schonard, Tobias Heed, Christian Seegelke
Protracted development of visuo-proprioceptive integration for uni-and bimanual motor coordination
Marie Martel, José P. Ossandón, Boukje Habets, Tobias Heed
Illusory tactile movement crosses arms and legs and is coded in external space
Marie Martel, Xaver Fuchs, Jörg Trojan, Valerie Gockel, Boukje Habets, Tobias Heed
The macaque ventral intraparietal area has expanded into three homologue human parietal areas
Celia Foster, Wei-An Sheng, Tobias Heed, Suliann Ben Hamed
Progress in Neurobiology


Repetition effects in action planning reflect effector- but not hemisphere-specific coding
Christian Seegelke, Carolin Schonard, Tobias Heed
Journal of Neurophysiology