, Volume 79, Issue 1, pp 97-102

Gating of tactile input from the hand

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Intraneural microstimulation within the median nerve of alert healthy subjects was used to evoke tactile sensations at threshold for conscious detection. The effect of movement on these sensations was studied by asking the subjects to estimate their magnitude before, during and after movement of the appropriate finger at different speeds. It was found that sensations of flutter and pressure were both attenuated by movement, as was the magnitude of spontaneous paraesthesiae. The degree of sensory inhibition correlated positively with speed of movement and was comparable to the previously reported reduction in cortical somatosensory evoked potentials by movement, using suprathreshold stimuli. These results indicate that (i) movement inhibits tactile sensations of different qualities, (ii) such inhibition is velocity-dependent, and (iii) threshold sensations are amenable to central modulation short of their abolition. It is likely that the mechanisms of inhibition of exteroceptive inputs during movement are contingent upon the character of the sensory stimulus and the nature of the motor task.