Sensory signals in neural populations underlying tactile perception and manipulation

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2004;27:53-77. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.26.041002.131032.


For humans to manipulate an object successfully, the motor control system must have accurate information about parameters such as the shape of the stimulus, its position of contact on the skin, and the magnitude and direction of contact force. The same information is required for perception during haptic exploration of an object. Much of these data are relayed by the mechanoreceptive afferents innervating the glabrous skin of the digits. Single afferent responses are modulated by all the relevant stimulus parameters. Thus, only in complete population reconstructions is it clear how each of the parameters can be signaled to the brain independently when many are changing simultaneously, as occurs in most normal movements or haptic exploration. Modeling population responses reveals how resolution is affected by neural noise and intrinsic properties of the population such as the pattern and density of innervation and the covariance of response variability.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Hand / innervation
  • Hand / physiology
  • Hand Strength / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology*
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Skin / innervation
  • Touch / physiology*