A mechanism for spatial perception on human skin

Cognition 178 (C):236-243 (2018)
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Our perception of where touch occurs on our skin shapes our interactions with the world. Most accounts of cutaneous localisation emphasise spatial transformations from a skin-based reference frame into body-centred and external egocentric coordinates. We investigated another possible method of tactile localisation based on an intrinsic perception of ‘skin space’. The arrangement of cutaneous receptive fields (RFs) could allow one to track a stimulus as it moves across the skin, similarly to the way animals navigate using path integration. We applied curved tactile motions to the hands of human volunteers. Participants identified the location midway between the start and end points of each motion path. Their bisection judgements were systematically biased towards the integrated motion path, consistent with the characteristic inward error that occurs in navigation by path integration. We thus showed that integration of continuous sensory inputs across several tactile RFs provides an intrinsic mechanism for spatial perception.

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Tony Cheng
University College London

Citations of this work

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