A four-channel analysis of the tactile sensitivity of the fingertip: frequency selectivity, spatial summation, and temporal summation

Somatosens Mot Res. 2002;19(2):114-24. doi: 10.1080/08990220220131505.


Thresholds were measured for the detection of vibratory stimuli of variable frequency and duration applied to the index fingertip and thenar eminence through contactors of different sizes. The effects of stimulus frequency could be accounted for by the frequency characteristics of the Pacinian (P), non-Pacinian (NP) I, and NP III channels previously determined for the thenar eminence (Bolanowski et al., J Acoust Soc Am 84: 1680-1694, 1988; Gescheider et al., Somatosens Mot Res 18: 191-201, 2001). The effect of changing stimulus duration was also essentially identical for both sites, demonstrating the same amount of temporal summation in the P channel. Although the effect of changing stimulus frequency and changing stimulus duration did not differ for the two sites, the effect of varying the size of the stimulus was significantly greater for the thenar eminence than for the fingertip. The attenuated amount of spatial summation on the fingertip was interpreted as an indication that the mechanism of spatial summation consists of the operations of both neural integration and probability summation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • Fingers / innervation
  • Fingers / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Skin Temperature
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Touch / physiology*
  • Vibration