Touch delivers a wealth of information already from birth, helping infants to acquire knowledge about a variety of important object properties using their hands. Despite the fact that we are touch experts as much as we are visual experts, surprisingly, little is known how our perceptual ability in touch is linked to either functional or structural aspects of the brain. The present study, therefore, investigates and identifies neuroanatomical correlates of haptic perceptual performance using a novel, multi-modal approach. For this, participants’ performance in a difficult shape categorization task was first measured in the haptic domain. Using a multi-modal functional magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging analysis pipeline, functionally defined and anatomically constrained white-matter pathways were extracted and their microstructural characteristics correlated with individual variability in haptic categorization performance. Controlling for the effects of age, total intracranial volume and head movements in the regression model, haptic performance was found to correlate significantly with higher axial diffusivity in functionally defined superior longitudinal fasciculus (fSLF) linking frontal and parietal areas. These results were further localized in specific sub-parts of fSLF. Using additional data from a second group of participants, who first learned the categories in the visual domain and then transferred to the haptic domain, haptic performance correlates were obtained in the functionally defined inferior longitudinal fasciculus. Our results implicate SLF linking frontal and parietal areas as an important white-matter track in processing touch-specific information during object processing, whereas ILF relays visually learned information during haptic processing. Taken together, the present results chart for the first time potential neuroanatomical correlates and interactions of touch-related object processing.
Brain Structure and Function – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 13, 2017
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