Neural pathways in tactile object recognition

Ellen Deibert, Michael Kraut, Sarah Kremen, John Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


Objective: To define further the brain regions involved in tactile object recognition using functional MRI (fMRI) techniques. Background: The neural substrates involved in tactile object recognition (TOR) have not been elucidated. Studies of nonhuman primates and humans suggest that basic motor and somatosensory mechanisms are involved at a peripheral level; however, the mechanisms of higher order object recognition have not been determined. Methods: The authors investigated 11 normal volunteers utilizing fMRI techniques in an attempt to determine the neural pathways involved in TOR. Each individual performed a behavioral paradigm with the activated condition involving identification of objects by touch, with identification of rough/smooth as the control. Results: Data suggest that in a majority of individuals, TOR involves the calcarine and extrastriatal cortex, inferior parietal lobule, inferior frontal gyrus, and superior frontal gyrus-polar region. Conclusions: TOR may utilize visual systems to access an internal object representation. The parietal cortices and inferior frontal regions may be involved in a concomitant lexical strategy of naming the object being examined. Frontal polar activation likely serves a role in visuospatial working memory or in recognizing unusual representations of objects. Overall, these findings suggest that TOR could involve a network of cortical regions subserving somatosensory, motor, visual, and, at times, lexical processing. The primary finding suggests that in this normal study population, the visual cortices may be involved in the topographic spatial processing of TOR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1413-1417
Number of pages5
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 22 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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