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Neuropsychologia. 2011 Jul;49(9):2703-10. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.05.018. Epub 2011 May 30.

Hemispheric specialisation in haptic processing.

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1
School of Psychology, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2AS, United Kingdom. pspa38@bangor.ac.uk

Abstract

This study investigated the organising principles of touch. We examined specialisations within the haptic system and their hemispheric distribution. Haptic processing consists of the integration of data from multiple sources to form a single percept. Previous research provides strong support for a hierarchical and functional distribution within haptic processing. We investigated hemispheric asymmetry in haptic discrimination of objects with differing textures and centres of mass. By analogy with vision it was hypothesised that participants would demonstrate a left-hand advantage for centre of mass discrimination (a 'global', presumed right hemisphere, judgement) and a right-hand advantage for surface texture judgements (a 'local', presumed left hemisphere discrimination). We found that left-handed participants showed these effects to a lesser degree than did the right-handers, consistent with the notion that left-handed people generally show weaker asymmetries in bimanual tasks. In a second experiment the effect of conflicting information on haptic percept formation was investigated. Following from the previous hypotheses it was predicted that participants would be more accurate with their right hands at judging conflicting surfaces. Contrary to predictions an advantage was demonstrated for the left hand for texture discrimination and for the right hand for centre of mass judgement.

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