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Sensory and cognitive factors in multi-digit touch, and its integration with vision

Arslanova, Irena; (2021) Sensory and cognitive factors in multi-digit touch, and its integration with vision. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

Every tactile sensation – an itch, a kiss, a hug, a pen gripped between fingers, a soft fabric brushing against the skin – is experienced in relation to the body. Normally, they occur somewhere on the body’s surface – they have spatiality. This sense of spatiality is what allows us to perceive a partner’s caress in terms of its changing location on the skin, its movement direction, speed, and extent. How this spatiality arises and how it is experienced is a thriving research topic, compelled by growing interest in the nature of tactile experiences from product design to brain-machine interfaces. The present thesis adds to this flourishing area of research by examining the unified spatial quality of touch. How does distinct spatial information converge from separate areas of the body surface to give rise to our normal unified experience of touch? After explaining the importance of this question in Chapter 1, a novel paradigm to tackle this problem will be presented, whereby participants are asked to estimate the average direction of two stimuli that are simultaneously moved across two different fingerpads. This paradigm is a laboratory analogue of the more ecological task of representing the overall movement of an object held between multiple fingers. An EEG study in Chapter 2 will reveal a brain mechanism that could facilitate such aggregated perception. Next, by characterising participants’ performance not just in terms of error rates, but by considering perceptual sensitivity, bias, precision, and signal weighting, a series of psychophysical experiments will show that this aggregation ability differs for within- and between-hand perception (Chapter 3), is independent from somatotopically-defined circuitry (Chapter 4) and arises after proprioceptive input about hand posture is accounted for (Chapter 5). Finally, inspired by the demand for integrated tactile and visual experience in virtual reality and the potential of tactile interface to aid navigation, Chapter 6 will examine the contribution of tactile spatiality on visual spatial experience. Ultimately, the present thesis will reveal sensory factors that limit precise representation of concurrently occurring dynamic tactile events. It will point to cognitive strategies the brain may employ to overcome those limitations to tactually perceive coherent objects. As such, this thesis advances somatosensory research beyond merely examining the selectivity to and discrimination between experienced tactile inputs, to considering the unified experience of touch despite distinct stimulus elements. The findings also have practical implications for the design of functional tactile interfaces.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Sensory and cognitive factors in multi-digit touch, and its integration with vision
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2021. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10132586
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