Different activation signatures in the primary sensorimotor and higher-level regions for haptic three-dimensional curved surface exploration

Jiajia Yang, Peter J. Molfese, Yinghua Yu, Daniel A. Handwerker, Gang Chen, Paul A. Taylor, Yoshimichi Ejima, Jinglong Wu, Peter A. Bandettini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Haptic object perception begins with continuous exploratory contact, and the human brain needs to accumulate sensory information continuously over time. However, it is still unclear how the primary sensorimotor cortex (PSC) interacts with these higher-level regions during haptic exploration over time. This functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study investigates time-dependent haptic object processing by examining brain activity during haptic 3D curve and roughness estimations. For this experiment, we designed sixteen haptic stimuli (4 kinds of curves × 4 varieties of roughness) for the haptic curve and roughness estimation tasks. Twenty participants were asked to move their right index and middle fingers along the surface twice and to estimate one of the two features—roughness or curvature—depending on the task instruction. We found that the brain activity in several higher-level regions (e.g., the bilateral posterior parietal cortex) linearly increased as the number of curves increased during the haptic exploration phase. Surprisingly, we found that the contralateral PSC was parametrically modulated by the number of curves only during the late exploration phase but not during the early exploration phase. In contrast, we found no similar parametric modulation activity patterns during the haptic roughness estimation task in either the contralateral PSC or in higher-level regions. Thus, our findings suggest that haptic 3D object perception is processed across the cortical hierarchy, whereas the contralateral PSC interacts with other higher-level regions across time in a manner that is dependent upon the features of the object.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117754
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2021


  • Cortical hierarchy
  • Haptic object perception
  • Parametric modulation
  • Primary motor cortex
  • Primary somatosensory cortex
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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