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Physiol Rep. 2015 Jul 14;3(7). pii: e12465. doi: 10.14814/phy2.12465. Epub 2015 Jul 14.

Application of vibration to wrist and hand skin affects fingertip tactile sensation.

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Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.
Department of Public Health Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Caroline, USA.
Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
Division of Occupational Therapy, Department of Health Professions, Department of Health Sciences and Research, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina, USA


A recent study showed that fingertip pads' tactile sensation can improve by applying imperceptible white-noise vibration to the skin at the wrist or dorsum of the hand in stroke patients. This study further examined this behavior by investigating the effect of both imperceptible and perceptible white-noise vibration applied to different locations within the distal upper extremity on the fingertip pads' tactile sensation in healthy adults. In 12 healthy adults, white-noise vibration was applied to one of four locations (dorsum hand by the second knuckle, thenar and hypothenar areas, and volar wrist) at one of four intensities (zero, 60%, 80%, and 120% of the sensory threshold for each vibration location), while the fingertip sensation, the smallest vibratory signal that could be perceived on the thumb and index fingertip pads, was assessed. Vibration intensities significantly affected the fingertip sensation (P < 0.01) in a similar manner for all four vibration locations. Specifically, vibration at 60% of the sensory threshold improved the thumb and index fingertip tactile sensation (P < 0.01), while vibration at 120% of the sensory threshold degraded the thumb and index fingertip tactile sensation (P < 0.01) and the 80% vibration did not significantly change the fingertip sensation (P > 0.01), all compared with the zero vibration condition. This effect with vibration intensity conforms to the stochastic resonance behavior. Nonspecificity to the vibration location suggests the white-noise vibration affects higher level neuronal processing for fingertip sensing. Further studies are needed to elucidate the neural pathways for distal upper extremity vibration to impact fingertip pad tactile sensation.


Finger; hand function; stochastic resonance; tactile sensation; vibration

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