Thermal and tactile interactions in the perception of local skin wetness at rest and during exercise in thermo-neutral and warm environments
journal contributionposted on 03.12.2013, 12:30 by Davide Filingeri, Bernard Redortier, Simon HodderSimon Hodder, George HavenithGeorge Havenith
The central integration of thermal (i.e. cold) and mechanical (i.e. pressure) sensory afferents is suggested as to underpin the perception of skin wetness. However, the role of temperature and mechanical inputs, and their interaction, is still unclear. Also, it is unknown whether this intra-sensory interaction changes according to the activity performed or the environmental conditions. Hence, we investigated the role of peripheral cold afferents, and their interaction with tactile afferents, in the perception of local skin wetness during rest and exercise in thermo-neutral and warm environments. Six cold-dry stimuli, characterised by decreasing temperatures [i.e. -4, -8 and -15°C below the local skin temperature (Tsk)] and by different mechanical pressures [i.e. low pressure (LP): 7 kPa; high pressure (HP): 10 kPa], were applied on the back of 8 female participants (age 21 ± 1 years), while they were resting or cycling in 22 or 33°C ambient temperature. Mean and local Tsk, thermal and wetness perceptions were recorded during the tests. Cold-dry stimuli produced drops in Tsk with cooling rates in a range of 0.06 to 0.4°C/s. Colder stimuli resulted in increasing coldness and in stimuli being significantly more often perceived as wet, particularly when producing skin cooling rates of 0.18°C/s and 0.35°C/s. However, when stimuli were applied with HP, local wetness perceptions were significantly attenuated. Wetter perceptions were recorded during exercise in the warm environment. We conclude that thermal inputs from peripheral cutaneous afferents are critical in characterizing the perception of local skin wetness. However, the role of these inputs might be modulated by an intra-sensory interaction with the tactile afferents. These findings indicate that human sensory integration is remarkably multimodal.