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Human 8-to 10-Hz pulsatile motor output during active exploration of textured surfaces reflects the textures' frictional properties

Journal article
Authors Mariama Dione
Johan Wessberg
Published in Journal of Neurophysiology
Volume 122
Issue 3
Pages 922-932
ISSN 0022-3077
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Physiology
Pages 922-932
Language en
Keywords movement discontinuities, muscle vibrations, pulsatile motor output, tremor, ballistic movement, discharge patterns, muscle activation, finger, movements, 40 hz, tremor, slow, contraction, instability, frequency, Neurosciences & Neurology, Physiology
Subject categories Physiology, Neurosciences


Active sensing in biological system consists of emitting/receiving a periodic signal to explore the environment. The signal can be emitted toward distant objects. as in echolocation, or in direct contact with the object. for example, whisking in rodents. We explored the hypothesis that a similar mechanism exists in humans. Humans generate periodic signals at similar to 10 Hz during voluntary finger movements, which reflects a pulsatile motor command in the central nervous system. In the present study, we tested whether the similar to 10-Hz signal persists during the active exploration of textures and whether the textures' features can modulate the signal. Our results confirm our assumptions. The similar to 10-Ilz signal persisted during active touch, and its amplitude increased with textures of higher friction. These findings support the idea that the similar to 10-Hz periodic signal generated during voluntary finger movements is part of an active sensing mechanism acting in a pulse-amplitude modulation fashion to convey relevant tactile information to the brain. NEW & NOTEWORTHY For the first time, we show that pulsatile motor output during voluntary movement of a finger persists during active exploration of a surface. We propose that this is part of an active sensing system in humans, with generation of an similar to 10-Hz signal during active touch that reinforces extraction of information about features of the touched surface.

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