Research ArticleNEUROSCIENCE

Touch as an auxiliary proprioceptive cue for movement control

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Science Advances  05 Jun 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 6, eaaw3121
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw3121


Recent studies extended the classical view that touch is mainly devoted to the perception of the external world. Perceptual tasks where the hand was stationary demonstrated that cutaneous stimuli from contact with objects provide the illusion of hand displacement. Here, we tested the hypothesis that touch provides auxiliary proprioceptive feedback for guiding actions. We used a well-established perceptual phenomenon to dissociate the estimates of reaching direction from touch and musculoskeletal proprioception. Participants slid their fingertip on a ridged plate to move toward a target without any visual feedback on hand location. Tactile motion estimates were biased by ridge orientation, inducing a systematic deviation in hand trajectories in accordance with our hypothesis. Results are in agreement with an ideal observer model, where motion estimates from different somatosensory cues are optimally integrated for the control of movement. These outcomes shed new light on the interplay between proprioception and touch in active tasks.

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