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Measuring the sensitivity of tactile temporal order judgments in sighted and blind participants using the adaptive psi method

Abstract

Spatial locations of somatosensory stimuli are coded according to somatotopic (anatomical distribution of the sensory receptors on the skin surface) and spatiotopic (position of the body parts in external space) reference frames. This was mostly evidenced by means of temporal order judgment (TOJ) tasks in which participants discriminate the temporal order of two tactile stimuli, one applied on each hand. Because crossing the hands generates a conflict between anatomical and spatial responses, TOJ performance is decreased in such posture, except for congenitally blind people, suggesting a role of visual experience in somatosensory perception. In previous TOJ studies, stimuli were generally presented using the method of constant stimuli—that is, the repetition of a predefined sample of stimulus-onset asynchronies (SOA) separating the two stimuli. This method has the disadvantage that a large number of trials is needed to obtain reliable data when aiming at dissociating performances of groups characterized by different cognitive abilities. Indeed, each SOA among a large variety of different SOAs should be presented the same number of times irrespective of the participant’s performance. This study aimed to replicate previous tactile TOJ data in sighted and blind participants with the adaptive psi method in order to validate a novel method that adapts the presented SOA according to the participant’s performance. This allows to precisely estimate the temporal sensitivity of each participant while the presented stimuli are adapted to the participant’s individual discrimination threshold. We successfully replicated previous findings in both sighted and blind participants, corroborating previous data using a more suitable psychophysical tool.

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Acknowledgments

C. Vanderclausen, L. Filbrich, A. de Volder and V. Legrain are supported by the Funds for Scientific Research of the French-speaking Community of Belgium (F.R.S.-FNRS). We thank Andrea Alamia (Institut des sciences biologiques [INSB], centre de recherches Cerveau et Cognition [CerCo], Toulouse, France) for his valuable help in originally adapting the MATLAB scripts and for his technical support during the experiments.

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Correspondence to Camille Vanderclausen.

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The data sets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available in the OSF repository (https://osf.io/a2g4b/).

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Vanderclausen, C., Filbrich, L., De Volder, A. et al. Measuring the sensitivity of tactile temporal order judgments in sighted and blind participants using the adaptive psi method. Atten Percept Psychophys 83, 2995–3007 (2021). https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-021-02301-5

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Keywords

  • Temporal order judgment
  • Adaptive psi method
  • Spatial representation
  • Early blindness
  • Touch