May 10, 2017

Spike Timing Matters in Novel Neuronal Code Involved in Vibrotactile Frequency Perception

Current Biology : CB
Ingvars Birznieks, Richard M Vickery


Skin vibrations sensed by tactile receptors contribute significantly to the perception of object properties during tactile exploration [1-4] and to sensorimotor control during object manipulation [5]. Sustained low-frequency skin vibration (<60 Hz) evokes a distinct tactile sensation referred to as flutter whose frequency can be clearly perceived [6]. How afferent spiking activity translates into the perception of frequency is still unknown. Measures based on mean spike rates of neurons in the primary somatosensory cortex are sufficient to explain performance in some frequency discrimination tasks [7-11]; however, there is emerging evidence that stimuli can be distinguished based also on temporal features of neural activity [12, 13]. Our study's advance is to demonstrate that temporal features are fundamental for vibrotactile frequency perception. Pulsatile mechanical stimuli were used to elicit specified temporal spike train patterns in tactile afferents, and subsequently psychophysical methods were employed to characterize human frequency perception. Remarkably, the most salient temporal feature determining vibrotactile frequency was not the underlying periodicity but, rather, the duration of the silent gap between successive...Continue Reading

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Pitch Perception
Subcortical Sensory Systems
CD96 gene

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