How Tool Use Changes the Brain

You Are What You Touch: How Tool Use Changes the Brain's Representations of the Body

Rapid Assimilation of External Objects Into the Body Schema
Thomas A. Carlson1,2,3⇓,
George Alvarez2,
Daw-an Wu2 and
Frans A.J. Verstraten3
+ Author Affiliations
1University of Maryland, College Park
2Harvard University
3Helmholtz Institute, Experimental Psychology Division, Utrecht University
Thomas A. Carlson, Department of Psychology, 1145A Biology/Psychology Building, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20740 E-mail:

When a warrior picks up a sword for battle, do sword and soldier become one? The notion of an extended sense of the body has been the topic of philosophical discussion for more than a century and more recently has been subjected to empirical tests by psychologists and neuroscientists. We used a unique afterimage paradigm to test if, and under what conditions, objects are integrated into an extended body sense. Our experiments provide empirical support for the notion that objects can be integrated into an extended sense of the body. Our findings further indicate that this extended body sense is highly plastic, quickly assimilating objects that are in physical contact with the observer. Finally, we show that this extended body sense is limited to first-order extensions, thus constraining how far one can extend oneself into the environment.

Read more here from Scientific America

Original research article here:

Apple valued Transformative Design - Design that changed people

This is a great video of how Steve Jobs of Apple (filmed in 1980) imagined the relationship that humans have with tool design and resources and how tools once in our lives, change us.  

Innovation involves this ability to express simplicity that address complexity with smooth sophistication.

PhD Thesis: A critical examination of food technology, innovation and teacher education: a technacy genre theory perspective

By Dr Angela Turner

"This thesis asserts that at the heart of the problem was the lack of a theoretically valid and reliable framework that may help both sectors clarify and articulate exactly what form of technology capability they are pursuing that best defines their practice and direction of scholarship.  The study was guided by the recent proposition of Technacy Genre Theory as it was assessed as offering the most contemporary and coherent approach in the literature for examining forms of technological knowledge."

Link to Thesis:

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy - Keynote


Culturally responsive pedagogy Keynote given at the TRCC event

Connect - putting the pieces together 

Click here to download PDF of presentation.

ASTEC 1996 - Foresight Report to 2010 - Outcomes

This bilaterally endorsed Foresight Report of the Australian Fedreal Government identified Technacy education as the most apprpriate framework for all primary, secondary and teacher education course to use for curriculum design and pedegogy in teh study of design and technology.

The Background FINDINGS and SUMMARY OUTCOMES are detailed in the reports below:

Australian Science Technology and Engineering Council. (1996). Developing Long-Term Strategies for Science and Technology in Australia: Outcomes of the Study: Matching Science and Technology for Future Needs 2010. Canberra: AGPS.

Australian Science Technology and Engineering Council. (1996). Developing Long-Term Strategies for Science and Technology in Australia: Findings of the Study: Matching Science and Technology for Future Needs 2010. Canberra: AGPS.

Seminal Paper - Technacy - Prospect Journal 1996

This invited paper in Prospect, UNESCOs international research journal on comparative education, was published as the first presentation of technacy theory in 10 languages, distributed to 30,000 copies. This paper was the foundation of the Australian Science Technology and Engineering Council's 8th of only 8 national Priority Actions approved by both sides of parliament in Australia to move towards a national foundation in Technacy education for all primary, secondary and teacher education program's by 2010.

Waking Up The Subject From Craft to Critical Technacy

A call to action for educationlists who seek more than skills training in design and technology teaching and learning.

Seemann, Kurt. (2007). Waking up the Subject: From Craft to Critical Technacy. Journal of Curriculum Perspectives, 2(3)

Click here for direct link.

Outstanding Research by Dr Parnell in Technacy, Sustainability and Culture.

This page lists publications written or co-written by Dr. Matthew Parnell since 1980. Highlighted titles can be downloaded as PDF documents

Click here for an array of outstanding papers and presentations by Dr Parnell in Technacy, Sustainablity, Culture and Practice.

Food Technology, Innovation and Teacher Education Summary of survey findings

This PhD Research Report by Dr. Turner outlines ground breaking empirical research revealing the epistemological frame of technological genres in technology education.  While it applied the genre theory to Food Technology, the underlying frame offered substantial strength to the universal form of technological knowledge and practice.

Download this and related papers via this URL link.

Brain rapidly rewires to help us use tools

 Click here to expand information for this research

Don Ihde proposed in his seminal work "Technics and Praxis' (1979) that there is a logical relationship between the design telos of tools and instruments and the perception of the user of those tools. One of Idhe's propositions back then was the idea that tools have a logical developmental telos, and natural goal to become seamless extensions of ourselves to the point where a good tool would be perceived as 'invisible' to the user, as if it was an organic part of the body.

Well this (see link below) neuroscience research offers validation to that proposition.  Drawn from work by Dr Eiichi Naito, of the “National Institute of Information and Communications Technology in Kyoto, and colleagues”  the way the brain maps visual cues to body representation is a key insight to how teaching this aspect of Design and Technology education could be better informed.  Visual imagery and videos of the same, are critical stimuli for tool skill and knowledge development.

Technacy genre theory, having emerged from works such as Ihde, also accommodates this position.  You will note that a genre necessarily involves a relationship between the tool system, the agent or user, and the material being transformed.


Ihde. D. (1979) Technics and Praxis. D. Rcidcl: Dordrccht and Boston. MA.  

Hagura N, Hirose1 S, Matsumura M and Naito E (2012) ‘Am I seeing my hand? Visual appearance and knowledge of controllability both contribute to the visual capture of a person's own body’, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.0750,  [accessed 30 May 2012

The Technacy Chart Project Report

This Report "Linking Desert Knowledge with Pedagogy Research for Middle School Curriculum" summarises ground breaking work by teachers and students 2006-2008. It was funded jointly by the:

  • Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre ($20,000)
  • Australian School Innovation in Science, Technology and Mathematics Project  (ASISTM) funded by the Australian Government ($79,300)
  • Southern Cross Univeristy - inkind research and development

The report reveals a high demand for this resource to become live and remain accessible as an on going program of development for the teaching community.  

NEXT BIG THING: To their merit as one of Australia's most innovative professional teacher associations, the DATTA Victoria group are using this work to conduct a series of Professional Development Workshops that began with the Thinker OnlIne , Thinker On-Hand program. The workshops form part of the DATTA Vic's interest in evolving a resource on line for all teachers in Technacy Genre theory and assessment strategies.  The feedback to date on these workshops, from both beginning and well experience technology teachers  have been excellent, with the desire to grow the program and skill up teachers to teach other teachers in the same. This latter initiative has been called the Open Focus project of DATTAVic