Human brain activity related to the tactile perception of stickiness

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Abstract

While the perception of stickiness serves as one of the fundamental dimensions for tactile sensation, little has been elucidated about the stickiness sensation and its neural correlates. The present study investigated how the human brain responds to perceived tactile sticky stimuli using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). To evoke tactile perception of stickiness with multiple intensities, we generated silicone stimuli with varying catalyst ratios. Also, an acrylic sham stimulus was prepared to present a condition with no sticky sensation. From the two psychophysics experiments-the methods of constant stimuli and the magnitude estimation—we could classify the silicone stimuli into two groups according to whether a sticky perception was evoked: the Supra-threshold group that evoked sticky perception and the Infra-threshold group that did not. In the Supra-threshold vs. Sham contrast analysis of the fMRI data using the general linear model (GLM), the contralateral primary somatosensory area (S1) and ipsilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) showed significant activations in subjects, whereas no significant result was found in the Infra-threshold vs. Sham contrast. This result indicates that the perception of stickiness not only activates the somatosensory cortex, but also possibly induces higher cognitive processes. Also, the Supra- vs. Infra-threshold contrast analysis revealed significant activations in several subcortical regions, including the pallidum, putamen, caudate and thalamus, as well as in another region spanning the insula and temporal cortices. These brain regions, previously known to be related to tactile discrimination, may subserve the discrimination of different intensities of tactile stickiness. The present study unveils the human neural correlates of the tactile perception of stickiness and may contribute to broadening the understanding of neural mechanisms associated with tactile perception.

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Yeon, J., Kim, J., Ryu, J., Park, J. Y., Chung, S. C., & Kim, S. P. (2017). Human brain activity related to the tactile perception of stickiness. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00008

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