Tactile acuity measured by 2-point discrimination performance is impaired in patients with complex regional pain syndrome type I (CRPS-I). This is mirrored by pain-associated shrinkage of the cortical representation of the affected limb. We investigated whether, also, more complex tactile performance assessed by a dynamic 2D-form perception task is disturbed in CRPS-I patients. Therefore, we developed a Braille-like recognition task (BT) for geometrical dot pattern identification by dynamic touch. We studied 47 healthy volunteers (Study I) and compared them to 16 CRPS-I patients (Study II). Besides recognition time and error quote of the BT, we assessed static 2-point discrimination thresholds (TPDT). In healthy subjects, the performance in the BT correlated significantly with age and TPDT. In CRPS patients, TPDT was significantly increased on the affected side compared to sex- and age-matched controls from study I (2.98 ± 0.84 mm vs 2.05 ± 0.82 mm, P<0.01). The performance in the BT was not impaired in CRPS-I patients (compared to sex- and age-matched controls from study I) and was not correlated to the TPDT. The intact 2D-form recognition ability in CRPS-I patients might be explained by intact dynamic tactile and proprioceptive functions, which appear to be uncompromised by the impaired static tactile perception, provided that the spacing of the dot pattern is above the individual tactile acuity. These intact 2D-form perception capacities may also be related to higher sensory integration functions like the visual system and intact semantic understanding, which may be spared by the cortical reorganization phenomena in CRPS-I.
Copyright © 2012 International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.