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J Neurophysiol. 2014 Dec 15;112(12):3023-32. doi: 10.1152/jn.00391.2014. Epub 2014 Sep 24.

The neural basis of tactile motion perception.

Author information

Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Taoyuan, Taiwan, Republic of China; Healthy Aging Research Center, Chang Gung University, Taoyuan, Taiwan, Republic of China;
Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; and Committee on Computational Neuroscience, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois


The manipulation of objects commonly involves motion between object and skin. In this review, we discuss the neural basis of tactile motion perception and its similarities with its visual counterpart. First, much like in vision, the perception of tactile motion relies on the processing of spatiotemporal patterns of activation across populations of sensory receptors. Second, many neurons in primary somatosensory cortex are highly sensitive to motion direction, and the response properties of these neurons draw strong analogies to those of direction-selective neurons in visual cortex. Third, tactile speed may be encoded in the strength of the response of cutaneous mechanoreceptive afferents and of a subpopulation of speed-sensitive neurons in cortex. However, both afferent and cortical responses are strongly dependent on texture as well, so it is unclear how texture and speed signals are disambiguated. Fourth, motion signals from multiple fingers must often be integrated during the exploration of objects, but the way these signals are combined is complex and remains to be elucidated. Finally, visual and tactile motion perception interact powerfully, an integration process that is likely mediated by visual association cortex.


aperture problem; cortex; integration; peripheral nerve; somatosensory cortex

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