The encoding of friction by tactile mechanoreceptors – the key to fingertip force control during dexterous object manipulation by humans

Unmatched human ability to control the hand so that brittle objects are gently held without slipping or being crushed by excessive force rely on sophisticated tactile sense in the fingertips. Frictional information signalled by skin mechanoreceptors is a key parameter required for such control, yet mechanisms by which this information is sensed and sent to the central nervous system are not known. This project will investigate such mechanisms by recording signals from single human tactile receptors using human microneurography and analysing data using new sophisticated neural data modelling algorithms. Our aim is to uncover some of the fundamental sensory mechanisms underlying unique human capabilities to manipulate objects and use tools. Our findings will enhance the future development of next generation sensory-controlled prosthetic and robotic manipulators.