Scientists from two different fields – textile research and neurosciences – are working together to understand how we perceive, feel or evaluate clothing on our skin. The researchers use special measuring devices in the laboratory to record the friction parameters (tribology) of textiles on human skin. This is followed by measurement series using high resolution EEG examinations on test subjects to provide exciting insights into our brain and the feelings generated during the wearing of textiles.
Prof. Dr. Dirk Höfer, director of the Department of Hygiene, Environment & Medicine at the Hohenstein Institute and Dr. Kai-Markus Müller, managing director of The Neuromarketing Labs, are currently conducting this worldwide unique pilot study for the perception of textiles worn close to the body.
The scientists agree: Previous neurophysiological research on the processing of sensations (perception) was strongly focused on acoustic and visual influences on the human capacity for performance and concentration. But what about the material that touches the largest human organ – the skin – for 24 hours every day without interruption? How does clothing influence our intellectual capacity and what exactly do the wearers feel? Can wellness textiles or business textiles actually trigger relaxation or even actively influence a person's physical regeneration?
These and other questions are now being examined in the framework of the cooperation between The Neuromarketing Labs and the Hohenstein Institute under the aspect of neuroscience for the first time. The research project ZIM-KF First-Layer 2136724CJ2 already combined friction tests (friction measurements of textiles on the skin) with neurophysiological methods to analyse the test subjects' acceptance of the textiles. A 64-channel EEG (electroencephalography) is used as a new method to provide insights into the activity of the human brain and its world of emotions down to a millisecond.
Based on decades of basic research, the EEG can measure level of attention as well as positive and negative emotions. Compared to context-related evaluation using questionnaires, the advantage of this method is the direct and therefore instinctive evaluation of arising emotions. Under the scientific direction of Dr. Kai-Markus Müller and Davide Baldo, The Neuromarketing Labs modified the basic scientific analysis methods and approaches to allow economical and practical application.
The tribological systems for testing friction on the skin allow textile manufacturers to characterize important properties such as static or dynamic friction coefficients in comparison to standardized, biometric human skin (HUMskin).
For the EEG examinations regarding the perception of clothing, the team from the Department of Hygiene, Environment & Medicine of Prof. Dr. Dirk Höfer specifically developed a special textile skin applicator which they christened SOFIA (SOFIA, acronym: Standardised Operating FabrIc Applicator, SOFIA is an ideal supplement to the tribological measuring methods and for the first time ever allows textiles to be moved along different parts of the human body with adjustable pressure and adaptable speed, i.e. the parameters crucial to perception.
Using SOFIA in combination with the EEG electroencephalography now provides the researchers in the SOFIA study with objective and controlled recordings of how the human brain reacts when the fabric touches different parts of the body.
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