Using Digital Image Correlation to Quantify Skin Deformation With Von Frey Monofilaments

IEEE Trans Haptics. 2022 Jan-Mar;15(1):26-31. doi: 10.1109/TOH.2021.3138350. Epub 2022 Mar 18.


Thin von Frey monofilaments are a clinical tool used worldwide to assess touch deficits. One's ability to perceive touch with low-force monofilaments (0.008 - 0.07 g) establishes an absolute threshold and thereby the extent of impairment. While individual monofilaments bend at defined forces, there are no empirical measurements of the skin surface's response. In this work, we measure skin surface deformation at light-touch perceptual limits, by adopting an imaging approach using 3D digital image correlation (DIC). Generating point cloud data from three cameras surveilling the index finger pad, we reassemble and stitch together multiple 3D surfaces. Then, in response to each monofilament's indentation over time, we quantify strain across the skin surface, radial deformation emanating from the contact point, penetration depth into the surface, and area between 2D cross-sections. The results show that the monofilaments create distinct states of skin deformation, which align closely with just noticeable percepts at absolute detection and discrimination thresholds, even amidst variance between individuals and trials. In particular, the resolution of the DIC imaging approach captures sufficient differences in skin deformation at threshold, offering promise in understanding the skin's role in perception.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Fingers / physiology
  • Humans
  • Skin*
  • Touch / physiology
  • Touch Perception*