Dynamic Displacement Vector Interacts with Tactile Localization

Curr Biol. 2019 Feb 4;29(3):492-498.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.12.032. Epub 2019 Jan 24.


Locating a tactile stimulus on the body seems effortless and straightforward. However, the perceived location of a tactile stimulation can differ from its physical location [1-3]. Tactile mislocalizations can depend on the timing of successive stimulations [2, 4, 5], tactile motion mechanisms [6], or processes that "remap" stimuli from skin locations to external space coordinates [7-11]. We report six experiments demonstrating that the perception of tactile localization on a static body part is strongly affected by the displacement between the locations of two successive task-irrelevant actions. Participants moved their index finger between two keys. Each keypress triggered synchronous tactile stimulation at a randomized location on the immobilized wrist or forehead. Participants reported the location of the second tactile stimulation relative to the first. The direction of either active finger movements or passive finger displacements biased participants' tactile orientation judgements (experiment 1). The effect generalized to tactile stimuli delivered to other body sites (experiment 2). Two successive keypresses, by different fingers at distinct locations, reproduced the effect (experiment 3). The effect remained even when the hand that moved was placed far from the tactile stimulation site (experiments 4 and 5). Temporal synchrony within 600 ms between the movement and tactile stimulations was necessary for the effect (experiment 6). Our results indicate that a dynamic displacement vector, defined as the location of one sensorimotor event relative to the one before, plays a strong role in structuring tactile spatial perception.

Keywords: attention; human; movement; spatial perception; tactile localization; touch.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orientation*
  • Space Perception*
  • Touch / physiology*
  • Touch Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult