The Effect of Contact Force on the Responses of Tactile Nerve Fibers to Scanned Textures

Neuroscience. 2018 Oct 1:389:99-103. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2017.08.024. Epub 2017 Aug 23.


The perception of fine textures relies on highly precise and repeatable spiking patterns evoked in tactile afferents. These patterns have been shown to depend not only on the surface microstructure and material but also on the speed at which it moves across the skin. Interestingly, the perception of texture is independent of scanning speed, implying the existence of downstream neural mechanisms that correct for scanning speed in interpreting texture signals from the periphery. What force is applied during texture exploration also has negligible effects on how the surface is perceived, but the consequences of changes in contact force on the neural responses to texture have not been described. In the present study, we measure the signals evoked in tactile afferents of macaques to a diverse set of textures scanned across the skin at two different contact forces and find that responses are largely independent of contact force over the range tested. We conclude that the force invariance of texture perception reflects the force independence of texture representations in the nerve.

Keywords: invariance; monkey; neurophysiology; somatosensory; touch.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ganglia, Spinal / physiology*
  • Macaca
  • Median Nerve / physiology*
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology*
  • Pressure
  • Touch Perception / physiology*
  • Ulnar Nerve / physiology*