The role of haptic cues from rough and slippery surfaces in human postural control
ABSTRACT Haptic information is critically important in complex sensory-motor tasks such as manipulating objects. Its comparable importance in spatial orientation is only beginning to be recognized. We have shown that postural sway in humans is significantly reduced by lightly touching a stable surface with a fingertip at contact force levels far below those physically necessary to stabilize the body. To investigate further the functional relationship between contact forces at the hand and postural equilibrium, we had subjects stand in the tandem Romberg stance while being allowed physically supportive (force contact) and non-physically supportive (touch contact) amounts of index fingertip force on surfaces with different frictional characteristics. Mean sway amplitude (MSA) was reduced by over 50% with both touch and force contact of the fingertip, compared to standing without fingertip contact. No differences in MSA were observed when touching rough or slippery surfaces. The amplitude of EMG activity in the peroneal muscles and the timing relationships between fingertip forces, body sway and EMG activity suggested that with touch contact of the finger or with force contact on a slippery surface, long-loop reflexes involving postural muscles were stabilizing sway. With force contact of the fingertip on a rough surface, MSA reduction was achieved primarily through physical support of the body. This pattern of results indicates that light touch contact cues from the fingertip in conjunction with proprioceptive signals about arm configuration are providing information about body sway that can be used to reduce MSA through postural muscle activation.
[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Somatosensation is divided into multiple discrete modalities that we think of separably: e.g., tactile, proprioceptive, and temperature sensation. However, in processes such as haptics,those modalities all interact. If one intended to artificially generate a sensation that could be used for stereognosis, for example, it would be crucial to understand these interactions. We are presently examining the relationship between tactile and proprioceptive modalities in this context. In this overview of some of our recent work, we show that signals that would normally be attributed to two of these systems separately, tactile contact and self-movement, interact both perceptually and physiologically in ways that complicate the understanding of haptic processing. In the first study described here, we show that a tactile illusion on the fingertips, the cutaneous rabbit effect, can be abolished by changing the posture of the fingers. We then discuss activity in primary somatosensory cortical neurons illustrating the interrelationship of tactile and postural signals. In this study, we used a robot-enhanced virtual environment to show that many neurons in primary somatosensory cortex with cutaneous receptive fields encode elements both of tactile contact and self-motion. We then show the results of studies examining the structure of the process which extracts the spatial location of the hand from proprioceptive signals. The structure of the spatial errors in these maps indicates that the proprioceptive-spatial map is stable but individually constructed.These seemingly disparate studies lead us to suggest that tactile sensation is encoded in a 2-D map, but one which undergoes continual dynamic modification by an underlying proprioceptive map. Understanding how the disparate signals that comprise the somatosensory system are processed to produce sensation is an important step in realizing the kind of seamless integration aspired to in neuroprosthetics.IEEE transactions on neural systems and rehabilitation engineering: a publication of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society 10/2011; 19(5):490-500. · 2.42 Impact Factor
[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Visual and somatosensory signals participate together in providing an estimate of the hand's spatial location. While the ability of subjects to identify the spatial location of their hand based on visual and proprioceptive signals has previously been characterized, relatively few studies have examined in detail the spatial structure of the proprioceptive map of the arm. Here, we reconstructed and analyzed the spatial structure of the estimation errors that resulted when subjects reported the location of their unseen hand across a 2D horizontal workspace. Hand position estimation was mapped under four conditions: with and without tactile feedback, and with the right and left hands. In the task, we moved each subject's hand to one of 100 targets in the workspace while their eyes were closed. Then, we either a) applied tactile stimulation to the fingertip by allowing the index finger to touch the target or b) as a control, hovered the fingertip 2 cm above the target. After returning the hand to a neutral position, subjects opened their eyes to verbally report where their fingertip had been. We measured and analyzed both the direction and magnitude of the resulting estimation errors. Tactile feedback reduced the magnitude of these estimation errors, but did not change their overall structure. In addition, the spatial structure of these errors was idiosyncratic: each subject had a unique pattern of errors that was stable between hands and over time. Finally, we found that at the population level the magnitude of the estimation errors had a characteristic distribution over the workspace: errors were smallest closer to the body. The stability of estimation errors across conditions and time suggests the brain constructs a proprioceptive map that is reliable, even if it is not necessarily accurate. The idiosyncrasy across subjects emphasizes that each individual constructs a map that is unique to their own experiences.PLoS ONE 01/2011; 6(11):e25214. · 4.09 Impact Factor
Article: Light and heavy touch reduces postural sway and modifies axial tone in Parkinson's disease.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: . Light touch with a stable object reduces postural sway by increasing axial postural tone in healthy subjects. However, it is unknown whether subjects with Parkinson's disease (PD), who have more postural sway and higher axial postural tone than healthy subjects, can benefit from haptic touch. . To investigate the effect of light and heavy touch on postural stability and hip tone in subjects with PD. . Fourteen subjects with mid-stage PD and 14 healthy control subjects were evaluated during quiet standing with eyes closed with their arms (a) crossed, (b) lightly touching a fixed rigid bar in front of them, and (c) firmly gripping the bar. Postural sway was measured with a forceplate, and axial hip tone was quantified using a unique device that measures the resistance of the hips to yaw rotation while maintaining active stance. . Subjects with PD significantly decreased their postural sway with light or heavy touch (P < .001 vs arms crossed), similarly as control subjects. Without touch, hip tone was larger in PD subjects. With touch, however, tone values were similar in both groups. This change in hip tone with touch was highly correlated with the initial amount of tone (PD, r = -.72 to -.95; controls, r = -.74 to -.85). . The authors showed, for the first time, that subjects with PD benefit from touch similarly to control subjects and that despite higher axial postural tone, PD subjects are able to modulate their tone with touch. Future studies should investigate the complex relationship between touch and postural tone.Neurorehabilitation and neural repair 03/2012; 26(8):1007-14. · 4.49 Impact Factor