Send to

Choose Destination
Nat Neurosci. 2004 Feb;7(2):170-7. Epub 2004 Jan 18.

First spikes in ensembles of human tactile afferents code complex spatial fingertip events.

Author information

Department of Integrative Medical Biology, Physiology Section, Umeå University, SE-901 87 Umeå, Sweden.


It is generally assumed that primary sensory neurons transmit information by their firing rates. However, during natural object manipulations, tactile information from the fingertips is used faster than can be readily explained by rate codes. Here we show that the relative timing of the first impulses elicited in individual units of ensembles of afferents reliably conveys information about the direction of fingertip force and the shape of the surface contacting the fingertip. The sequence in which different afferents initially discharge in response to mechanical fingertip events provides information about these events faster than the fastest possible rate code and fast enough to account for the use of tactile signals in natural manipulation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Nature Publishing Group
Loading ...
Support Center