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Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 237, Issue 1, pp 237–246 | Cite as

Muscular effort differentially mediates perception of heaviness and length via dynamic touch

  • Madhur MangalamEmail author
  • James D. Conners
  • Tarkeshwar SinghEmail author
Research Article

Abstract

Our ability to perceive properties of handheld objects (e.g., heaviness, orientation, length, width, and shape) by wielding via dynamic touch is crucial for tooling and other forms of object manipulation—activities that are the basis of much human experience. Here, we investigated how muscular effort mediates perception of heaviness and length via dynamic touch. Twelve participants wielded nine occluded elongated objects of distinct moments of inertia and reported their perceptual judgments of heaviness and length. We measured the electromyography (EMG) activity of the participants’ biceps brachii, flexor carpi radialis, and flexor carpi ulnaris muscles during wielding. Distinct single-valued functions of the eigenvalues I1 and I3 of the inertial tensor, I, closely predicted perceived heaviness and perceived length of the wielded objects. Perceived heaviness showed a direct and linear relationship with EMG activity of biceps brachii, flexor carpi radialis, and flexor carpi ulnaris. However, while perceived length showed a very weak relationship with EMG activity of biceps brachii, we found no association between perceived length and EMG activity of flexor carpi radialis and flexor carpi ulnaris. Our findings indicate that muscular effort contributes directly to perception of heaviness, but likely only serves as a medium for perception of length. While the same physical variable—i.e., the moment of inertia—provides the informational support for perception of heaviness and length, distinct psychophysiological processes underlie perception of heaviness and length via dynamic touch.

Keywords

Effortful touch Exteroception Heaviness perception Length perception Moment of inertia 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank Jeffrey B. Wagman for calculating rotational inertias of the experimental objects. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments and insightful suggestions that generated much discussion among the present authors and helped significantly improve the final draft of this manuscript.

Author contributions

MM, JDC, and TS conceived and designed research; MM and JDC performed experiments; MM analyzed data; MM and TS interpreted results of experiments; MM prepared figures; MM, JDC, and TS drafted manuscript; MM, JDC, and TS edited and revised manuscript; MM, JDC, and TS approved final version of manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Department of KinesiologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  3. 3.Division of NeuroscienceUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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