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    Human perception of touch is mediated by inputs from multiple channels. Classical theories postulate independent contributions of each channel to each tactile feature, with little or no interaction between channels. In contrast to this view, we show that inputs from two sub-modalities of mechanical input channels interact to determine tactile perception. The flutter-range vibration channel was activated anomalously using hydroxy-α-sanshool, a bioactive compound of Szechuan pepper, which chemically induces vibration-like tingling sensations. We tested whether this tingling sensation on the lips was modulated by sustained mechanical pressure. Across four experiments, we show that sustained touch inhibits sanshool tingling sensations in a location-specific, pressure-level and time-dependent manner. Additional experiments ruled out the mediation of this interaction by nociceptive or affective (C-tactile) channels. These results reveal novel inhibitory influence from steady pressure onto flutter-range tactile perceptual channels, consistent with early-stage interactions between mechanoreceptor inputs within the somatosensory pathway.


    Antonio Cataldo, Nobuhiro Hagura, Yousef Hyder, Patrick Haggard. Touch inhibits touch: sanshool-induced paradoxical tingling reveals perceptual interaction between somatosensory submodalities. Proceedings. Biological sciences. 2021 Jan 27;288(1943):20202914

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    PMID: 33499781

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