Contribution of tactile information to accuracy in pointing movements

  • Rao A
  • Gordon A
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We examined the contribution of tactile cues to accuracy during point-to-point movements. We used a task in which the experimenter guided either the left or right hand of the subject to a spatial location during the reference movement. During the subsequent test movement subjects were asked to point with the right hand to the remembered location without vision. Subjects contacted the target with their fingertip either during the reference movement, both the reference and test movements, or neither movement (i.e., the fingertip was held above the target surface). To differentiate between the contribution of tactile and proximal deep pressure information, the left index finger was anesthetized in a subsequent experiment. When subjects contacted the surface with the fingertip of the reference hand alone, error in movement direction decreased. When subjects made fingertip contact during the reference and test movements, gain error also decreased. Anesthesia of the fingertip degraded accuracy, suggesting that tactile information, independent of information from proximal deep pressure receptors, influenced movement accuracy. Thus, tactile information contributed to accuracy in pointing movements. We suggest that forces at fingertip contact may provide information regarding the orientation of the finger and forearm in space, which is used to replicate final arm posture. In addition, tactile cues at the beginning and end of the movement may be used to scale movement amplitude.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Arm movement
  • Digital anesthesia
  • Performance errors
  • Proprioception
  • Sensorimotor integration
  • Single-limb movements
  • Switched-limb movements
  • Tactile cues

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  • Ashwini K. Rao

  • Andrew M. Gordon

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