Sci. Signal., 17 March 2009
Biophysics Fingertip Search
Science, AAAS, Washington, DC 20005, USA
Why do humans have epidermal ridges and why are they arranged in whorls? Previous work has established two cutaneous mechanoreceptor channels by which the perception of coarse and fine spatial features is transmitted from the finger surfaces to tactile processing centers; the slowly adapting mechanoreceptor class is primarily used for the detection of edges and skin stretches, whereas the Pacinian corpuscles pick up vibrations at a few hundred hertz. Scheibert et al. do not answer the second question but are able to offer a response to the first by using an artificial spherical cap (like a miniature swimming cap) whose surface has been patterned with ridges of similar size and frequency to what are found on human fingerpads. Rubbing this cap across patterned surfaces reveals that the presence of the ridges serves to amplify the pressure deflection by 100-fold and that this occurs optimally within the range of the Pacinian fibers.
J. Scheibert, S. Leurent, A. Prevost, G. Debrégeas, The role of fingerprints in the coding of tactile information probed with a biomimetic sensor. Science 323, 1503–1506 (2009). [Abstract] [Full Text]
Citation: G. Chin, Fingertip Search. Sci. Signal. 2, ec102 (2009).
The editors suggest the following Related Resources on Science sites:
In Science Signaling
Science Signaling. ISSN 1937-9145 (online), 1945-0877 (print). Pre-2008: Science's STKE. ISSN 1525-8882