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Attention, Perception & Psychophysics

Year: 2009  |  Volume: 71  |  Issue: 5  |  Page No.: 1185 - 1196

Temperature perception on the hand during static versus dynamic contact with a surface

B. G. Green


Innocuous cooling or heating of the forearm can evoke nociceptive sensations, such as burning, stinging, and pricking (low-threshold thermal nociception, LTN), that are inhibited by dynamic contact. In the present study, I investigated whether LTN can also be perceived on the hand, and if so, whether it is normally suppressed by active touching. Innocuous cold (28°, 25°, and 18°C) and warm (38°, 40°, and 43°C) temperatures were delivered to the distal metacarpal pads and intermediate and distal phalanges of the fingers via a handgrip thermode that subjects either statically held or actively grasped. The same temperatures were delivered to the forearm via another thermode that either rested on the arm or was touched to the arm. Subjects rated the intensity of thermal (warmth, cold) and nociceptive (e.g., burning) sensations and indicated the qualities of sensation experienced. The results showed that LTN can be perceived on the hand, although less frequently and less intensely than on the forearm. Dynamic contact inhibited nociceptive and thermal sensations on the hand, although less strongly than on the forearm. These findings indicate that temperature perception on the hand is attenuated and its quality is changed when thermal stimulation is accompanied by dynamic tactile stimulation, as it is during haptic exploration.

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