Kinematics of unconstrained tactile texture exploration

J Neurophysiol. 2015 Apr 1;113(7):3013-20. doi: 10.1152/jn.00703.2014. Epub 2015 Mar 4.


A hallmark of tactile texture exploration is that it involves movement between skin and surface. When we scan a surface, small texture-specific vibrations are produced in the skin, and specialized cutaneous mechanoreceptors convert these vibrations into highly repeatable, precise, and informative temporal spiking patterns in tactile afferents. Both texture-elicited vibrations and afferent responses are highly dependent on exploratory kinematics, however; indeed, these dilate or contract systematically with decreases or increases in scanning speed, respectively. These profound changes in the peripheral response that accompany changes in scanning speed and other parameters of texture scanning raise the question as to whether exploratory behaviors change depending on what surface is explored or what information is sought about that surface. To address this question, we measure and analyze the kinematics as subjects explore textured surfaces to evaluate different types of texture information, namely the textures' roughness, hardness, and slipperiness. We find that the exploratory movements are dependent both on the perceptual task, as has been previously shown, but also on the texture that is scanned. We discuss the implications of our findings regarding the neural coding and perception of texture.

Keywords: exploratory procedures; haptics; scanning speed; texture perception; touch.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fingers / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Stimulation / methods*
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena*
  • Surface Properties
  • Touch / physiology*