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Clinical Trial
, 44 (12), 2361-6

The Limit of Tactile Spatial Resolution in Humans: Grating Orientation Discrimination at the Lip, Tongue, and Finger

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Clinical Trial

The Limit of Tactile Spatial Resolution in Humans: Grating Orientation Discrimination at the Lip, Tongue, and Finger

R W Van Boven et al. Neurology.

Abstract

The sensory neural pathways serving the lip, tongue, and finger are specialized for spatial information processing; thus, damage to these pathways is likely to be manifested most prominently as a loss of spatial acuity. For that reason, accurate measurement of spatial resolution at these regions is particularly important. The conventional test, the two-point discrimination task, does not measure the limit of spatial resolution and it yields variable results because it does not control nonspatial cues. The aim of this study was to quantify the limits of spatial resolution at the lip, tongue, and finger and to study the repeatability of those measurements using a stimulus that does not introduce nonspatial cues. We employed a grating orientation discrimination test, which has been studied extensively in relation to the underlying neural mechanisms. We obtained psychophysical thresholds for tactile spatial resolution from 15 normal, young adult subjects over seven test sessions. The finest gratings whose orientations were discriminated reliably had groove widths (gratings had equal groove and bar widths) that averaged 0.51 mm at the lip, 0.58 mm at the tongue, and 0.94 mm at the finger. These threshold measurements were highly reproducible between sessions with an overall improvement of 2% per session. These data suggest that the grating orientation discrimination task provides a stable, reliable measure of the human capacity for spatial resolution.

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