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Int J Neural Syst. 2016 Mar;26(2):1650006. doi: 10.1142/S0129065716500064. Epub 2015 Dec 14.

Quantifying Different Tactile Sensations Evoked by Cutaneous Electrical Stimulation Using Electroencephalography Features.

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1 State Key Laboratory of Mechanical Systems and Vibration, School of Mechanical Engineering, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, #800 Dongchuan Road, Minhang District, Shanghai 200240, P. R. China.


Psychophysical tests and standardized questionnaires are often used to analyze tactile sensation based on subjective judgment in conventional studies. In contrast with the subjective evaluation, a novel method based on electroencephalography (EEG) is proposed to explore the possibility of quantifying tactile sensation in an objective way. The proposed experiments adopt cutaneous electrical stimulation to generate two kinds of sensations (vibration and pressure) with three grades (low/medium/strong) on eight subjects. Event-related potentials (ERPs) and event-related synchronization/desynchronization (ERS/ERD) are extracted from EEG, which are used as evaluation indexes to distinguish between vibration and pressure, and also to discriminate sensation grades. Results show that five-phase P1–N1–P2–N2–P3 deflection is induced in EEG. Using amplitudes of latter ERP components (N2 and P3), vibration and pressure sensations can be discriminated on both individual and grand-averaged ERP (p < 0.05). The grand-average ERPs can distinguish the three sensations grades, but there is no significant difference on individuals. In addition, ERS/ERD features of mu rhythm (8–13 Hz) are adopted. Vibration and pressure sensations can be discriminated on grand-average ERS/ERD (p < 0.05), but only some individuals show significant difference. The grand-averaged results show that most sensation grades can be differentiated, and most pairwise comparisons show significant difference on individuals (p < 0.05). The work suggests that ERP- and ERS/ERD-based EEG features may have potential to quantify tactile sensations for medical diagnosis or engineering applications.


Tactile sensation; electroencephalography; electrotactile stimulation; event-related potential; event-related synchronization/desynchronization

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