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Tactile directional sensibility: peripheral neural mechanisms in man.

Journal article
Authors Håkan Olausson
Johan Wessberg
Naoyuki Kakuda
Published in Brain research
Volume 866
Issue 1-2
Pages 178-87
ISSN 0006-8993
Publication year 2000
Published at Institute of Physiology and Pharmacology, Dept of Physiology
Pages 178-87
Language en
Keywords Adult, Female, Humans, Male, Mechanoreceptors, cytology, physiology, Nerve Fibers, Myelinated, physiology, Peripheral Nerves, cytology, physiology, Physical Stimulation, Reaction Time, physiology, Skin, innervation, Skin Physiological Phenomena, Touch, physiology
Subject categories Neurophysiology


Tactile directional sensibility, i.e. the ability to tell the direction of an object's motion across the skin, is an easily observed sensory function that is highly sensitive to disturbances of the somatosensory system. Based on previous psychophysical experiments on healthy subjects it was concluded that directional sensibility depends on two kinds of information from cutaneous mechanoreceptors; spatio-temporal information and information about friction-induced changes in skin stretch. In the present study responses to similar probe movements as in the psychophysical experiments were recorded from human single mechanoreceptors in the forearm skin. All slowly adapting type 2 (SA2) units were spontaneously active, and with increasing force of friction their discharge rates were modified by probe movements at increasing distances from the Ruffini end-organ, reflecting the high stretch-sensitivity of these units. Slowly adapting type 1 (SA1) and field units responded to the moving probe within well-defined skin areas directly overlying the individual receptor terminals, and compared to the SA2 units their response properties were less dependent on the force of friction. The results suggest that SA1 and field units have the capacity to signal spatio-temporal information, whereas a population of SA2 units have the capacity to signal direction-specific information about changes in lateral skin stretch.

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