Perceived timing of cutaneous vibration and intracortical microstimulation of human somatosensory cortex

Breanne Christie, Luke E. Osborn, David P. McMullen, Ambarish S. Pawar, Tessy M. Thomas, Sliman J. Bensmaia, Pablo A. Celnik, Matthew S. Fifer, Francesco V. Tenore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Intracortical microstimulation (ICMS) of somatosensory cortex can partially restore the sense of touch. Though ICMS bypasses much of the neuraxis, prior studies have found that conscious detection of touch elicited by ICMS lags behind the detection of cutaneous vibration. These findings may have been influenced by mismatched stimulus intensities, which can impact temporal perception. Objective: Evaluate the relative latency at which intensity-matched vibration and ICMS are perceived by a human participant. Methods: One person implanted with microelectrode arrays in somatosensory cortex performed reaction time and temporal order judgment (TOJ) tasks. To measure reaction time, the participant reported when he perceived vibration or ICMS. In the TOJ task, vibration and ICMS were sequentially presented and the participant reported which stimulus occurred first. To verify that the participant could distinguish between stimuli, he also performed a modality discrimination task, in which he indicated if he felt vibration, ICMS, or both. Results: When vibration was matched in perceived intensity to high-amplitude ICMS, vibration was perceived, on average, 48 ms faster than ICMS. However, in the TOJ task, both sensations arose at comparable latencies, with points of subjective simultaneity not significantly different from zero. The participant could discriminate between tactile modalities above chance level but was more inclined to report feeling vibration than ICMS. Conclusions: The latencies of ICMS-evoked percepts are slower than their mechanical counterparts. However, differences in latencies are small, particularly when stimuli are matched for intensity, implying that ICMS-based somatosensory feedback is rapid enough to be effective in neuroprosthetic applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)881-888
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Stimulation
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2022


  • Brain-computer interface
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Latency
  • Somatosensation
  • Touch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Biophysics
  • General Neuroscience


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