The neural basis of tactile motion perception

Yu Cheng Pei, Sliman J. Bensmaia*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

51 Scopus citations


The manipulation of objects commonly involves motion between object and skin. In this review, we discuss the neural basis of tactile motion perception and its similarities with its visual counterpart. First, much like in vision, the perception of tactile motion relies on the processing of spatiotemporal patterns of activation across populations of sensory receptors. Second, many neurons in primary somato-sensory cortex are highly sensitive to motion direction, and the response properties of these neurons draw strong analogies to those of direction-selective neurons in visual cortex. Third, tactile speed may be encoded in the strength of the response of cutaneous mechanoreceptive afferents and of a subpopulation of speed-sensitive neurons in cortex. However, both afferent and cortical responses are strongly dependent on texture as well, so it is unclear how texture and speed signals are disambiguated. Fourth, motion signals from multiple fingers must often be integrated during the exploration of objects, but the way these signals are combined is complex and remains to be elucidated. Finally, visual and tactile motion perception interact powerfully, an integration process that is likely mediated by visual association cortex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3023-3032
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 15 12 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 the American Physiological Society.


  • Aperture problem
  • Cortex
  • Integration
  • Peripheral nerve
  • Somatosensory cortex


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