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J Neurophysiol. 2005 Jun;93(6):3036-43.

Approaches to the study of haptic sensing.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota, 6-145 Jackson Hall, 321 Church St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


This review surveys results from a new approach to the problem of haptic sensing, in which subjects use primarily proximal arm movements to explore the shapes of virtual objects. These shapes are generated using a robotically controlled manipulandum. We begin by summarizing distortions of simple geometric properties (such as the length and orientation of lines) in the haptic perception of space. We then consider the extent to which the sense of more complex shapes (such as quadrilaterals) can be explained by these geometric distortions, i.e., the extent to which the shape of a complex object is synthesized from simpler constituent elements, and some of the sensory cues that may be important in this process. Haptic and visual processing of shapes appear to lead to some similar illusions. However, we argue that the processing of haptic information differs fundamentally from visual processing in that the former requires the integration of information that evolves in time as well as in space.

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