Neural Categorization of Vibrotactile Frequency in Flutter and Vibration Stimulations: An fMRI Study

IEEE Trans Haptics. 2016 Oct-Dec;9(4):455-464. doi: 10.1109/TOH.2016.2593727. Epub 2016 Jul 27.


As the use of wearable haptic devices with vibrating alert features is commonplace, an understanding of the perceptual categorization of vibrotactile frequencies has become important. This understanding can be substantially enhanced by unveiling how neural activity represents vibrotactile frequency information. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), this study investigated categorical clustering patterns of the frequency-dependent neural activity evoked by vibrotactile stimuli with gradually changing frequencies from 20 to 200 Hz. First, a searchlight multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) was used to find brain regions exhibiting neural activities associated with frequency information. We found that the contralateral postcentral gyrus (S1) and the supramarginal gyrus (SMG) carried frequency-dependent information. Next, we applied multidimensional scaling (MDS) to find low-dimensional neural representations of different frequencies obtained from the multi-voxel activity patterns within these regions. The clustering analysis on the MDS results showed that neural activity patterns of 20-100 Hz and 120-200 Hz were divided into two distinct groups. Interestingly, this neural grouping conformed to the perceptual frequency categories found in the previous behavioral studies. Our findings therefore suggest that neural activity patterns in the somatosensory cortical regions may provide a neural basis for the perceptual categorization of vibrotactile frequency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Touch Perception / physiology*
  • Vibration*
  • Young Adult