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Exp Brain Res. 1995;106(3):434-48.

Haptic localization and the internal representation of the hand in space.

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Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Brain Sciences Center (11B), Minneapolis, MN 55417, USA. dasso001/


As the hand actively explores the environment, contact with an object leads to neuronal activity in the topographic maps of somatosensory cortex. However, the brain must combine this somatotopically encoded tactile information with an internal representation of the hand's location in space if it is to determine the position of the object in three-dimensional space (3-D haptic localization). To investigate the fidelity of this internal representation in human subjects, a small tactual stimulator, light enough to be worn on the subject's hand, was used to present a brief mechanical pulse (6-ms duration) to the right index finger before, during, or after a fast, visually evoked movement of the right hand. In experiment 1, subjects responded by pointing to the perceived location of the mechanical stimulus in 3-D space. Stimuli presented shortly before or during the visually evoked movement were systematically mislocalized, with the reported location of the stimulus approximately equal to the location occupied by the hand 90 ms after stimulus onset. This pattern of errors indicates a representation of the movement that fails to account for the change in the hand's location during somatosensory delays and, in some subjects, inaccurately depicts the velocity of the actual movement. In experiment 2, subjects were instructed to verbally indicate the perceived temporal relationship of the stimulus and the visually evoked movement (i.e., by reporting whether the stimulus was presented "before," "during," or "after" the movement). On average, stimuli presented in the 38-ms period before movement onset were more likely to be perceived as having occurred during rather than before the movement. Similarly, stimuli in the 145-ms period before movement termination were more likely to be perceived as having occurred after rather than during the movement. The analogous findings of experiments 1 and 2 indicate that the same inaccurate representation of dynamic hand position is used to both localize tactual stimuli in 3-D space and construct the perception of arm movement.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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