Spatial localization of electrotactile stimuli on the fingertip in humans

L. R. Bobich, J. P. Warren, J. D. Sweeney, Stephen Helms Tillery, Marco Santello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


This study was designed to determine the extent to which sensations elicited by discrete electrotactile stimulation can be spatially localized, with a qualitative comparison to mechanical stimulation, in a 2 x 2 electrode array on the fingertip. Electrotactile stimulation was delivered in two modes: (1) same current to all locations (constant) or (2) current adjusted to perceptual threshold of each location (varied). For each stimulus location, subjects were asked to identify the location of the stimulus. Mechanical stimulation of the same locations on the fingerpad was delivered through von Frey hairs (0.07, 0.2 and 0.4 g). The percentage of accurate responses was computed for all stimulation modes. We found that the accuracy of discrimination of stimulus location in both the constant (46%) and varied (40%) electrotactile stimulation modes was significantly higher than chance level (25%; p < 0.01). Furthermore, subjects were significantly more accurate in discriminating electrotactile stimuli in the constant than in the varied mode (p < 0.05). We also found that the accuracy of spatial discrimination was dependent on stimulation site for mechanical, but not electrotactile stimulation. Finally, we found a significant difference in accuracy over the duration of the experiment only for mechanical modes, which may indicate that electrotactile stimuli are less biased over time. These results suggest that, although low in accuracy, human subjects are able to extract spatial information from electrotactile stimuli. Further research is needed to optimize the amount of the information that can be delivered through electrotactile stimulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-188
Number of pages10
JournalSomatosensory and Motor Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • Discrimination
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Electrode
  • Finger
  • Localization
  • Touch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Sensory Systems


Dive into the research topics of 'Spatial localization of electrotactile stimuli on the fingertip in humans'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this