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The biology of skin wetness perception and its implications in manual function and for reproducing complex somatosensory signals in neuroprosthetics

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journal contribution
posted on 16.02.2017, 12:17 by Davide Filingeri, Rochelle Ackerley
Our perception of skin wetness is generated readily, yet humans have no known receptor (hygroreceptor) to signal this directly. It is easy to imagine the sensation of water running over our hands, or the feel of rain on our skin. The synthetic sensation of wetness is thought to be produced from a combination of specific skin thermal and tactile inputs, registered through thermoreceptors and mechanoreceptors, respectively. The present review explores how thermal and tactile afference from the periphery can generate the percept of wetness centrally. We propose that the main signals include information about skin cooling, signaled primarily by thinly-myelinated thermoreceptors, and rapid changes in touch, through fast-conducting, myelinated mechanoreceptors. Potential central sites for integration of these signals, and thus the perception of skin wetness, include the primary and secondary somatosensory cortices and the insula cortex. The interactions underlying these processes can also be modeled to aid in understanding and engineering the mechanisms. Further, we discuss the role that sensing wetness could play in precision grip and the dexterous manipulation of objects. We expand on these lines of inquiry to the application of the knowledge in designing and creating skin sensory feedback in prosthetics. The addition of real-time, complex sensory signals would mark a significant advance in the use and incorporation of prosthetic body parts for amputees in everyday life.

Funding

This research was funded by a grant from the FP7-People-COFUND (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union, under REA grant agreement No. 608743.

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Published in

Journal of Neurophysiology

Volume

117

Issue

4

Pages

1761-1775

Citation

FILINGERI, D. and ACKERLEY, R., 2017. The biology of skin wetness perception and its implications in manual function and for reproducing complex somatosensory signals in neuroprosthetics. Journal of Neurophysiology, 117 (4), pp. 1761-1775.

Publisher

© American Physiological Society

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Acceptance date

19/01/2017

Publication date

2017-04-07

Copyright date

2017

Notes

This paper was accepted for publication in the journal Journal of Neurophysiology and the definitive published version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1152/jn.00883.2016

ISSN

1522-1598

Language

en

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