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Design, Development and Functionality of a Haptic Force-Matching Device for Measuring Sensory Attenuation


In this paper we describe the design, development and functionality of a haptic force-matching device. This device measures precise sensorimotor perception by determining a subject’s ability to successfully attenuate incoming sensory signals. Sensory attenuation provides a novel method of investigating psychophysical aspects of perception and may help to formulate neurocognitive models that may account for maladaptive interoceptive processing. Several similar custom-made devices have been reported in the literature; however, a clear description of the mechanical engineering necessary to build such a device is lacking. We present, in detail, the hardware and software necessary to build such a device. Subjects (N = 25) were asked to match a target force on their right index finger, first by pressing directly on their finger with their other hand, then by controlling the device through an external potentiometer to control the force (indirectly) though a torque motor. In the direct condition, we observed a consistent overestimation of the force reproduced; mean force error 0.50 newtons (standard error = 0.04). In the slider condition we observed a more accurate, yet small, underestimation of reproduced force: −0.30 newtons (standard error = 0.03).

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David McNaughton is the recipient of the Chiropractic Australia PhD scholarship grant. A portion of the funds were used to commission the construction of the device from Maxon group.

Author information




David McNaughton: Conceptualisation: Data curation; Formal analysis; Funding acquisition; Writing—original draft

Carlos Bacigalupo: Methodology; Construction of device; Writing—original draft

Alicia Georghiades: Project Administration; data curation; Writing—review and editing

Julia Hush: Conceptualisation; Study supervision; Writing—review and editing

Alissa Beath: Conceptualisation; Study supervision; Writing—review and editing

Michael Jones: Conceptualisation: Data curation; Formal analysis; Study supervision; Funding acquisition; Writing—original draft

Corresponding author

Correspondence to David McNaughton.

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Data availability

De-identified experimental data available on request to authors.

Consent for publication

We consent to publication to Behaviour Research Methods and confirm that the current manuscript is not under review by or submitted to any other journal.

Code availability

The programming code required for the device is available through the Open Science Framework. There are two files; the .py is for the GUI and top-level functions, while the .cpp is for the server and low-level functions including comms with the EPOS4. These files are available through this link:

Ethics approval

The study was approved by the Macquarie University Human Sciences Ethics Subcommittee (Approval number: 52019574612789).

Conflicts of interest/Competing interests

No conflict of interest or competing interest to declare.

Additional information

The study was approved by the Macquarie University Human Sciences Ethics Subcommittee (Approval number: 52019574612789).

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• The force-matching paradigm provides a novel method to investigate psychophysical aspects of perception.

• We provide the mechanical engineering and software design necessary to build a force-matching device.

• Our device functions similarly to previous devices.

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McNaughton, D., Bacigalupo, C., Georghiades, A. et al. Design, Development and Functionality of a Haptic Force-Matching Device for Measuring Sensory Attenuation. Behav Res (2021).

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  • Sensory attenuation
  • Predictive processing
  • Perception
  • Sensorimotor
  • Force-matching