Fingerprints may be more useful to us than helping us nab criminal suspects: they also improve our sense of touch. Sensory neurons in the finger can detect touch on the scale of a single fingerprint ridge, according to new research published in JNeurosci.
The hand contains tens of thousands of sensory neurons. Each neuron tunes in to a small surface area on the skin -- a receptive field -- and detects touch, vibration, pressure, and other tactile stimuli. The human hand possesses a refined sense of touch, but the exact sensitivity of a single sensory neuron has not been studied before.
To address this, Jarocka et al. measured the electrical activity of the sensory neurons in human fingertips when they stimulated with raised dots swept over the skin. The research team calculated the detection areas of the sensory neurons and mapped them onto the fingerprints. The width of the detection areas matched the width of a single fingerprint ridge. These areas stayed on the same fingerprint ridges during different scanning speeds and directions, indicating that they are anchored to the fingerprint ridges. The overlap of receptive fields with small detection areas explains how humans have such a sensitive and accurate sense of touch.
Paper title: Human Touch Receptors Are Sensitive To Spatial Details on the Scale of Single Fingerprint Ridges
JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.
About The Society for Neuroscience
The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.