Vibrotactile adaptation impairs discrimination of fine, but not coarse, textures

Somatosens Mot Res. 2001;18(4):253-62. doi: 10.1080/01421590120089640.


The effect of vibrotactile adaptation on the ability to discriminate textured surfaces was examined in three experiments. The surfaces were rectilinear arrays of pyramids produced by etching of silicon wafers. Adaptation to 100-Hz vibration severely hampered discrimination of surfaces with spatial periods below 100 microm (Experiment 1), but had little effect on the discrimination of coarser textures (Experiment 2). To determine which vibrotactile channel--Rapidly Adapting or Pacinian--plays the larger role in mediating the discrimination of fine textures, widely separated adapting frequencies (10 and 250 Hz) were used in Experiment 3. The fact that high- but not low-frequency adaptation interfered with discrimination suggests that the Pacinian system contributes importantly to this ability. Taken as a whole, the results of this study strongly support the duplex theory of tactile texture perception, according to which different mechanisms--spatial and vibrotactile--mediate the perception of coarse and fine textures, respectively.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Calibration
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fingers / innervation
  • Fingers / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Surface Properties
  • Touch / physiology*
  • Vibration*