Thompson Rivers University

Jenni Karl

Name: Jenni Karl
Position: Associate Professor


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Research Interests

Prehension, the act of reaching to grasp an object, is one of our most precious behaviours. It is highly evolved in primates and allows us to manipulate objects, acquire and prepare food for eating, construct and use tools, and communicate through gestures, written words, and creative art. Not surprisingly, it is the behavior that people with sensorimotor disorders most want restored; however, its neural basis is highly complex, involves distributed pathways that traverse most brain regions, and is not well understood. My long-term research goal is to determine how the human brain generates skilled hand and mouth movements. I am especially interested in how these movements and their underlying neural substrates arose through evolution, are established during development, and breakdown in various neurological disorders. I use 3D linear kinematics and high-speed frame-by-frame video analyses to characterize the structure and behavioural organization of skilled hand and mouth movements in healthy human adults, developing human infants, and non-human species in order to derive insight into how the neural substrates that underlie these behaviours are organized.


Postdoc, Western University (2015)
Ph.D.(Governor General's Gold Medal), University of Lethbridge (2014)
M.Sc., University of Lethbridge (2010)
B.Sc.(Hons), University of Lethbridge (2008)


Recent Journal Articles

Bamford, L. E.*, Klassen, N. R.*, & Karl, J. M. (2020). Faster recognition of graspable objects defined by orientation in a visual search task. Experimental Brain Research, doi:10.1007/s00221-020-05769-z.

Kuntz, J. R., Karl, J. M., Doan, J. B., Grohs, M., & Whishaw, I. Q. (2019). Two types of memory-based (pantomime) reaches distinguished by gaze anchoring in reach-to-grasp tasks. Behavioral Brain Research, 381, 112438, doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2019.112438.

Karl, J. M., Slack, B. M.*, Wilson, A. M.*, Wilson, C. A.*, & Bertoli, M. E.* (2019). Increasing task precision demands reveals that the reach and grasp remain subject to different perception-action constraints in 12-month-old human infants. Infant Behavior and Development, 57, 101382, doi:10.1016/j.infbeh.2019.101382.

Karl, J. M., Wilson, A. M.*, Bertoli, M. E.*, Shubear, N. S.* (2018) Touch the table before the target: Contact with an underlying surface may assist the development of precise visually controlled reach and grasp movements in human infants. Experimental Brain Research, 236(8), 2185-2207, doi:10.1007/s00221-018-5293-4.

Kuntz, J. R.*, Karl, J. M., Doan, J. B., Whishaw, I.Q. (2018). Gaze anchoring guides real but not pantomime reach-to-grasp: Support for the action-perception theory. Experimental Brain Research. doi: 10.1007/s00221-018-5196-4.

Karl, J. M., Kuntz, J. R.*, Lenhart, L. A.*, & Whishaw, I. Q. (2018). Frame-by-frame video analysis for the quantification of idiosyncratic reach-to-grasp movements in humans. Journal of Visualized Experiments, 131, e56733, doi:10.3791/56733.

Whishaw, I.Q., Karl, J. M., & Humphrey, N. K. (2016). Dissociation of the Reach and the Grasp in the destriate (V1) monkey Helen: a new anatomy for the dual visuomotor channel theory of reaching. Experimental Brain Research, 234(8), 2351-2362.

Thomas, B. L., Karl, J. M., & Whishaw, I. Q. (2015). Independent development of the Reach and the Grasp in self-touching by human infants in the first six months. Frontiers in Developmental Psychology, 5(1526), doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01526.

Whishaw, I. Q. & Karl, J. M. (2014). The contribution of the Reach and the Grasp to shaping brain and behaviour. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 68(4), 223-235.

Karl, J. M., & Whishaw, I. Q. (2014). Haptic grasping configurations in early infancy reveal different developmental profiles for visual guidance of the Reach versus the Grasp. Experimental Brain Research, 232(10), 3301-3316.

Hall, L. A.*, Karl, J. M., Thomas, B. L., & Whishaw I. Q. (2014). Reach and Grasp reconfigurations reveal that proprioception assists reaching and hapsis assists grasping in peripheral vision. Experimental Brain Research, 232(9), 2807-2819.

Karl, J. M., & Whishaw, I. Q. (2013). Different evolutionary origins for the Reach and the Grasp: an explanation for dual visuomotor channels in primate parietofrontal cortex. Frontiers in Neurology, 4(208), doi: 10.3389/fneur.2013.00208.

Karl, J. M., Schneider, L. R.*, & Whishaw, I.Q., (2013). Nonvisual learning of intrinsic object properties in a reaching task dissociates grasp from reach. Experimental Brain Research, 225(4), 465-77.

Recent Book Chapters

Whishaw, I. Q. & Karl, J. M. (2019). The Evolution of the Hand as a Tool in Feeding Behavior: The Multiple Motor Channel Theory of Hand Use. In V. Bels & I. Q. Whishaw (Eds.) Feeding in Vertebrates: Evolution, Morphology, Behavior, Biomechanics (pp. 159 186). Switzerland; Springer.

Karl, J. M., Sacrey, L. A., Whishaw, I. Q. (2018). Multiple Motor Channel Theory and the Development of Skilled Hand Movements in Human Infants. In D. Corbetta & M. Santello (Eds.) Reach-to-Grasp Behavior: Brain, Behavior, and Modelling Across the Life Span. (pp. 42 68). Abingdon, UK:Routledge Taylor & Francis.

Employment History

2020 to Present: Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, BC, Canada.

2015 to 2020: Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, BC, Canada.

2014 to 2015: Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Psychology, The Brain and Mind Institute, Western University, London, ON, Canada.

2008 to 2009: Research Assistant, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.

Courses Taught

Psyc1110: Introductory Psychology
Psyc2040: Introduction to Biological Psychology
Psyc3560: Psychopharmacology
Psyc3570: Neuroscience of Motivation and Emotion
Psyc3580: Neuroscience of Learning and Memory
Psyc3610: Integrated Methods and Analysis of Psychological Data
Psyc4400: Directed Studies in Psychology
Psyc4990: Honours Thesis in Psychology

Professional Affiliations

American Psychological Society
Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour, and Cognitive Sciences
Society for Neuroscience
Vision Sciences Society


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