Reconstructing neural representations of tactile space

Tamè, Luigi; Tucciarelli, Raffaele; Sadibolova, Renata; Sereno, Martin I. and Longo, Matthew R.. 2021. Reconstructing neural representations of tactile space. NeuroImage, 229, 117730. ISSN 1053-8119 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Psychophysical experiments have demonstrated large and highly systematic perceptual distortions of tactile space. Such a space can be referred to our experience of the spatial organisation of objects, at representational level, through touch, in analogy with the familiar concept of visual space. We investigated the neural basis of tactile space by analysing activity patterns induced by tactile stimulation of nine points on a 3 × 3 square grid on the hand dorsum using functional magnetic resonance imaging. We used a searchlight approach within pre-defined regions of interests to compute the pairwise Euclidean distances between the activity patterns elicited by tactile stimulation. Then, we used multidimensional scaling to reconstruct tactile space at the neural level and compare it with skin space at the perceptual level. Our reconstructions of the shape of skin space in contralateral primary somatosensory and motor cortices reveal that it is distorted in a way that matches the perceptual shape of skin space. This suggests that early sensorimotor areas critically contribute to the distorted internal representation of tactile space on the hand dorsum.

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LT, RT and MRL were supported by a grant from the European Research Council (ERC-2013-StG-336050) under the FP7 to MRL.

Supplementary material associated with this article can be found, in the online version, at doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2021.117730 .


Shape of the skin, Tactile distance perception, Somatosensory and motor cortices, Multidimensional scaling, Body distortions, fMRI, Multivariate analysis

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Psychology > Timing, Awareness, and Suggestion Lab


7 January 2021Accepted
14 January 2021Published Online
April 2021Published

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Date Deposited:

19 Jul 2021 08:58

Last Modified:

03 Aug 2021 15:04

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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