Tactile Rivalry Demonstrated with an Ambiguous Apparent-Motion Quartet

Cater, Konkle, Wang, Hayward, & Moore

When observers view ambiguous visual stimuli, their perception will often alternate between the possible interpretations, a phenomenon termed perceptual rivalry [1]. To induce perceptual rivalry in the tactile domain, we developed a new tactile illusion, based on the visual apparent-motion quartet [2]. Pairs of 200 ms vibrotactile stimuli were applied to the finger pad at intervals separated by 300 ms. The location of each successive stimulus pair alternated between the opposing diagonal corners of the ~1 cm2 stimulation array. This stimulation sequence led all participants to report switches between the perception of motion traveling either up and down or left and right across their fingertip. Adaptation to tactile stimulation biased toward one direction caused subsequent ambiguous stimulation to be experienced in the opposing direction. In contrast, when consecutive trials of ambiguous stimulation were presented, motion was generally perceived in the direction consistent with the motion reported in the previous trial. Voluntary eye movements induced shifts in the tactile perception toward a mo- tion axis aligned along a world-centered coordinate frame. Because the tactile quartet results in switching perceptual states despite unvaried sensory input, it is ideally suited to future studies of the neural processes associated with conscious tactile perception.

Carter, O. L., Konkle, T., Wang, Q., Hayward, V., & Moore, C. I. (2008). Tactile Rivalry Demonstrated with an Ambiguous Apparent-Motion Quartet. Current Biology. 18:1-5.