The Slip Hypothesis: Tactile Perception and its Neuronal Bases

Trends Neurosci. 2016 Jul;39(7):449-462. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2016.04.008. Epub 2016 Jun 13.


The slip hypothesis of epicritic tactile perception interprets actively moving sensor and touched objects as a frictional system, known to lead to jerky relative movements called 'slips'. These slips depend on object geometry, forces, material properties, and environmental factors, and, thus, have the power to incorporate coding of the perceptual target, as well as perceptual strategies (sensor movement). Tactile information as transferred by slips will be encoded discontinuously in space and time, because slips sometimes engage only parts of the touching surfaces and appear as discrete and rare events in time. This discontinuity may have forced tactile systems of vibrissae and fingertips to evolve special ways to convert touch signals to a tactile percept.

Keywords: epicritic tactile perception; fingertip; friction; papillary ridges; slip hypothesis; stick-slip movements; vibrissae.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Touch / physiology*
  • Touch Perception / physiology*