Neural correlates of perceptual texture change during active touch.
Henderson J., Mari T., Hopkinson A., Hewitt D., Newton-Fenner A., Giesbrecht T., Marshall A., Stancak A., Fallon N.
INTRODUCTION: Texture changes occur frequently during real-world haptic explorations, but the neural processes that encode perceptual texture change remain relatively unknown. The present study examines cortical oscillatory changes during transitions between different surface textures during active touch. METHODS: Participants explored two differing textures whilst oscillatory brain activity and finger position data were recorded using 129-channel electroencephalography and a purpose-built touch sensor. These data streams were fused to calculate epochs relative to the time when the moving finger crossed the textural boundary on a 3D-printed sample. Changes in oscillatory band power in alpha (8-12 Hz), beta (16-24 Hz) and theta (4-7 Hz) frequency bands were investigated. RESULTS: Alpha-band power reduced over bilateral sensorimotor areas during the transition period relative to ongoing texture processing, indicating that alpha-band activity is modulated by perceptual texture change during complex ongoing tactile exploration. Further, reduced beta-band power was observed in central sensorimotor areas when participants transitioned from rough to smooth relative to transitioning from smooth to rough textures, supporting previous research that beta-band activity is mediated by high-frequency vibrotactile cues. DISCUSSION: The present findings suggest that perceptual texture change is encoded in the brain in alpha-band oscillatory activity whilst completing continuous naturalistic movements across textures.