Vibrotactile stimulation of fast-adapting cutaneous afferents from the foot modulates proprioception at the ankle joint

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2016 Apr 15;120(8):855-64. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00810.2015. Epub 2016 Jan 28.


It has previously been shown that cutaneous sensory input from across a broad region of skin can influence proprioception at joints of the hand. The present experiment tested whether cutaneous input from different skin regions across the foot can influence proprioception at the ankle joint. The ability to passively match ankle joint position (17° and 7° plantar flexion and 7° dorsiflexion) was measured while cutaneous vibration was applied to the sole (heel, distal metatarsals) or dorsum of the target foot. Vibration was applied at two different frequencies to preferentially activate Meissner's corpuscles (45 Hz, 80 μm) or Pacinian corpuscles (255 Hz, 10 μm) at amplitudes ∼3 dB above mean perceptual thresholds. Results indicated that cutaneous input from all skin regions across the foot could influence joint-matching error and variability, although the strongest effects were observed with heel vibration. Furthermore, the influence of cutaneous input from each region was modulated by joint angle; in general, vibration had a limited effect on matching in dorsiflexion compared with matching in plantar flexion. Unlike previous results in the upper limb, we found no evidence that Pacinian input exerted a stronger influence on proprioception compared with Meissner input. Findings from this study suggest that fast-adapting cutaneous input from the foot modulates proprioception at the ankle joint in a passive joint-matching task. These results indicate that there is interplay between tactile and proprioceptive signals originating from the foot and ankle.

Keywords: ankle joint; cutaneous afferent; mechanoreceptor; proprioception; sensory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ankle / innervation
  • Ankle / physiology
  • Ankle Joint / innervation
  • Ankle Joint / physiology*
  • Female
  • Foot / innervation
  • Foot / physiology*
  • Hand / innervation
  • Hand / physiology
  • Heel / innervation
  • Heel / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Pacinian Corpuscles / physiology
  • Proprioception / physiology*
  • Skin / innervation*
  • Touch / physiology
  • Vibration
  • Young Adult