Novel approaches to study the cortical representation of active touch and the perception of textures in humans

Novel approaches to study the cortical representation of active touch and the perception of textures in humans

Investigators : Athanasia Moungou, David Gueorguiev, Jean-Louis Thonnard, André Mouraux.

This project is conducted within the frame of a multi-partner European project (Marie Curie Initial Training Network PROTOTOUCH), focusing on the development of (1) novel techniques to generate tactile sensations such as the perception of textures (2) novel approaches to explore the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying the sense of touch at the level of the peripheral nervous system and the central nervous system and (3) novel signal-processing methods and computational neuroscience techniques to characterize the neural encoding of the tactile input generated by finger interactions with tactile displays. It is increasingly recognized that the active perception of textures emerges from the vibrations induced by sliding the finger on the textured surface. Based on the recording of SS-EPs, we developed a new method co characterize the cortical activity related to tactile processing using a wide variety of textures, ranging from gratings to natural textures. Our experiments were conducted in passive dynamic touch, i.e. passive presentation of the stimuli by a high-precision force-feedback platform. Our results have shown that a significant part of the recorded brain responses reflect the processing of the texture-induced vibrations that are generated on our skin. Currently, our aim is to better understand the cortical differences between “active” and “passive” touch, i.e. dynamic touch with and without voluntary movement using matching stimuli, with the help of the force platform.