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Exp Brain Res. 2008 Oct;191(1):49-56. doi: 10.1007/s00221-008-1494-6. Epub 2008 Jul 24.

Vibrotactile amplitude discrimination capacity parallels magnitude changes in somatosensory cortex and follows Weber's Law.

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


In this study, we investigated the changes in perceptual metrics of amplitude discrimination that were observed in ten healthy human subjects with increasing intensities of stimulation. The ability to perceive differences in vibrotactile amplitude changed systematically with increasing stimulus magnitude (i.e., followed Weber's Law) in a near linear fashion (R (2) = 0.9977), and the linear fit determined by the amplitude discrimination task predicted the subjects' detection thresholds. Additionally, the perceptual metrics correlated well with observations from a previously reported study in which measures of SI cortical activity in non-human primates (squirrel monkeys) evoked by different amplitudes of vibrotactile stimulation were obtained (Simons et al. in BMC Neurosci 6:43, 2005). Stimuli were delivered simultaneously to two different skin sites (D2 and D3), enabling a method for the relatively rapid acquisition of the data. Stability and robustness of the measure, its rapid acquisition, and its apparent relationship with responses previously observed in SI cortex, led to the conclusion that deviations from the baseline values observed in the obtained perceptual metric could provide a useful indicator of cerebral cortical health.

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