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Neuron. 2011 Feb 10;69(3):536-47. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2010.12.033.

Neural mechanisms of tactile motion integration in somatosensory cortex.

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Department of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 813 Wood Basic Science Building, 725 N. Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


How are local motion signals integrated to form a global motion percept? We investigate the neural mechanisms of tactile motion integration by presenting tactile gratings and plaids to the fingertips of monkeys, using the tactile analogue of a visual monitor and recording the responses evoked in somatosensory cortical neurons. The perceived directions of the gratings and plaids are measured in parallel psychophysical experiments. We identify a population of somatosensory neurons that exhibit integration properties comparable to those induced by analogous visual stimuli in area MT and find that these neural responses account for the perceived direction of the stimuli across all stimulus conditions tested. The preferred direction of the neurons and the perceived direction of the stimuli can be predicted from the weighted average of the directions of the individual stimulus features, highlighting that the somatosensory system implements a vector average mechanism to compute tactile motion direction that bears striking similarities to its visual counterpart.

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