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Brain Res. 2006 Aug 2;1102(1):109-16. Epub 2006 Jun 27.

Vibrotactile adaptation enhances spatial localization.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 27599, USA.


A two-interval forced choice tracking procedure was used to evaluate the effects of a pre-exposure to vibrotactile stimulation ("adaptation") on the capacity of human subjects to spatially localize a subsequent tactile stimulus. A 25 Hz flutter adapting stimulus was presented at a randomly selected position within a 20 mm linear array oriented transversely on the hand dorsum. Two flutter stimuli delivered subsequently were applied to different sites along the linear array; one to the same locus that received the adapting stimulation (the "standard" stimulus), the other to a distant site (the "test" stimulus). Following each trial, subjects were queried as to which of the two stimuli was delivered to the same skin site that received adapting stimulation. A correct response resulted in a reduced distance between the sites contacted by the standard and test stimuli in the following trial. Four subjects participated in 10 sessions each. A session consisted of two sets of 20 trials (one set at 0.5 s and another at 5 s adapting stimulus duration). For every subject, 5 s adaptation resulted in an approximately 2-fold improvement in spatial discrimination performance over that achieved following 0.5 s adaptation. It is proposed that the improved human vibrotactile spatial localization performance following 5 s of 25 Hz stimulation is due to enhanced spatial funneling of the global neuronal population response of primary somatosensory cortex (SI) that has been demonstrated to accompany increases in duration of 25 Hz flutter stimuli delivered to the skin.

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