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Thermal referral: evidence for a thermoceptive uniformity illusion without touch

Cataldo, A; Ferre, ER; di Pellegrino, G; Haggard, P; (2016) Thermal referral: evidence for a thermoceptive uniformity illusion without touch. Scientific Reports , 6 , Article 352. 10.1038/srep35286. Green open access

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Abstract

When warm thermal stimulators are placed on the ring and index fingers of one hand, and a neutral-temperature stimulator on the middle finger, all three fingers feel warm. This illusion is known as thermal referral (TR). On one interpretation, the heterogenous thermal signals are overridden by homogenous tactile signals. This cross-modal thermo-tactile interaction could reflect a process of object recognition, based on the prior that many objects are thermally homogenous. Interestingly, the illusion was reported to disappear when the middle digit was lifted off the thermal stimulator, suggesting that tactile stimulation is necessary. However, no study has investigated whether purely thermal stimulation might induce TR, without any tactile object to which temperature can be attributed. We used radiant thermal stimulation to deliver purely thermal stimuli, which either were or were not accompanied by simultaneous touch. We found identical TR effects in both the original thermo-tactile condition, and in a purely thermoceptive condition where no tactile object was present. Control experiments ruled out explanations based on poor spatial discrimination of warm signals. Our purely thermoceptive results suggest that TR could reflect low-level organization of the thermoceptive pathway, rather than a cognitive intermodal modulation based on tactile object perception.

Type: Article
Title: Thermal referral: evidence for a thermoceptive uniformity illusion without touch
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/srep35286
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep35286
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Keywords: Science & Technology, Multidisciplinary Sciences, Science & Technology - Other Topics, 2ND SOMATOSENSORY CORTEX, SPATIAL SUMMATION, SYNTHETIC HEAT, WARMTH, LOCALIZATION, MECHANISMS, SENSATIONS, COLD, PAIN, BODY
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
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
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1527108
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