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, 323 (5920), 1503-6

The Role of Fingerprints in the Coding of Tactile Information Probed With a Biomimetic Sensor

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The Role of Fingerprints in the Coding of Tactile Information Probed With a Biomimetic Sensor

J Scheibert et al. Science.

Abstract

In humans, the tactile perception of fine textures (spatial scale <200 micrometers) is mediated by skin vibrations generated as the finger scans the surface. To establish the relationship between texture characteristics and subcutaneous vibrations, a biomimetic tactile sensor has been designed whose dimensions match those of the fingertip. When the sensor surface is patterned with parallel ridges mimicking the fingerprints, the spectrum of vibrations elicited by randomly textured substrates is dominated by one frequency set by the ratio of the scanning speed to the interridge distance. For human touch, this frequency falls within the optimal range of sensitivity of Pacinian afferents, which mediate the coding of fine textures. Thus, fingerprints may perform spectral selection and amplification of tactile information that facilitate its processing by specific mechanoreceptors.

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