More than skin-deep: Integration of skin-based and musculoskeletal reference frames in localization of touch.

Renata Sadibolova, Luigi Tamè, Matthew R. Longo

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The skin of the forearm is, in one sense, a flat 2-dimensional (2D) sheet, but in another sense approximately cylindrical, mirroring the 3-dimensional (3D) volumetric shape of the arm. The role of frames of reference based on the skin as a 2D sheet versus based on the musculoskeletal structure of the arm remains unclear. When we rotate the forearm from a pronated to a supinated posture, the skin on its surface is displaced. Thus, a marked location will slide with the skin across the underlying flesh, and the touch perceived at this location should follow this displacement if it is localized within a skin-based reference frame. We investigated, however, if the perceived tactile locations were also affected by the rearrangement in underlying musculoskeletal structure, that is, displaced medially and laterally on a pronated and supinated forearm, respectively. Participants pointed to perceived touches (Experiment 1), or marked them on a (3D) size-matched forearm on a computer screen (Experiment 2). The perceived locations were indeed displaced medially after forearm pronation in both response modalities. This misperception was reduced (Experiment 1), or absent altogether (Experiment 2) in the supinated posture when the actual stimulus grid moved laterally with the displaced skin. The grid was perceptually stretched at medial-lateral axis, and it was displaced distally, which suggest the influence of skin-based factors. Our study extends the tactile localization literature focused on the skin-based reference frame and on the effects of spatial positions of body parts by implicating the musculoskeletal factors in localization of touch on the body.
Original languageUndefined
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2018

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