Tactile perceptual learning: learning curves and transfer to the contralateral finger

Exp Brain Res. 2013 Feb;224(3):477-88. doi: 10.1007/s00221-012-3329-8. Epub 2012 Nov 18.


Tactile perceptual learning has been shown to improve performance on tactile tasks, but there is no agreement about the extent of transfer to untrained skin locations. The lack of such transfer is often seen as a behavioral index of the contribution of early somatosensory brain regions. Moreover, the time course of improvements has never been described explicitly. Sixteen subjects were trained on the Ludvigh task (a tactile vernier task) on four subsequent days. On the fifth day, transfer of learning to the non-trained contralateral hand was tested. In five subjects, we explored to what extent training effects were retained approximately 1.5 years after the final training session, expecting to find long-term retention of learning effects after training. Results showed that tactile perceptual learning mainly occurred offline, between sessions. Training effects did not transfer initially, but became fully available to the untrained contralateral hand after a few additional training runs. After 1.5 years, training effects were not fully washed out and could be recuperated within a single training session. Interpreted in the light of theories of visual perceptual learning, these results suggest that tactile perceptual learning is not fundamentally different from visual perceptual learning, but might proceed at a slower pace due to procedural and task differences, thus explaining the apparent divergence in the amount of transfer and long-term retention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Fingers / physiology
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Learning Curve
  • Male
  • Touch / physiology*
  • Touch Perception / physiology*
  • Transfer, Psychology / physiology*