Feeling better: separate pathways for targeted enhancement of spatial and temporal touch

Psychol Sci. 2014 Feb;25(2):555-65. doi: 10.1177/0956797613511467. Epub 2014 Jan 3.


People perceive spatial form and temporal frequency through touch. Although distinct somatosensory neurons represent spatial and temporal information, these neural populations are intermixed throughout the somatosensory system. Here, we show that spatial and temporal touch can be dissociated and separately enhanced via cortical pathways that are normally associated with vision and audition. In Experiments 1 and 2, we found that anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) applied over visual cortex, but not auditory cortex, enhances tactile perception of spatial orientation. In Experiments 3 and 4, we found that anodal tDCS over auditory cortex, but not visual cortex, enhances tactile perception of temporal frequency. This double dissociation reveals separate cortical pathways that selectively support spatial and temporal channels. These results bolster the emerging view that sensory areas process multiple modalities and suggest that supramodal domains may be more fundamental to cortical organization.

Keywords: brain stimulation; cognitive neuroscience; crossmodal processing; multisensory; perception; perceptual enhancement; spatial perception; tactile; temporal frequency; vibrotactile thresholds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation / instrumentation
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Touch Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*