Active movement restores veridical event-timing after tactile adaptation

Alice Tomassini, Monica Gori, David Burr, Giulio Sandini, Maria Concetta Morrone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Growing evidence suggests that time in the subsecond range is tightly linked to sensory processing. Event time can be distorted by sensory adaptation, and many temporal illusions can accompany action execution. In this study, we show that adaptation to tactile motion causes a strong contraction of the apparent duration of tactile stimuli. However, when subjects make a voluntary motor act before judging the duration, it annuls the adaptation-induced temporal distortion, reestablishing veridical event-time. The movement needs to be performed actively by the subject: passive movement of similar magnitude and dynamics has no effect on adaptation, showing that it is the motor commands themselves, rather than re afferent signals from body movement, which reset the adaptation for tactile duration. No other concomitant perceptual changes were reported (such as apparent speed or enhanced temporal discrimination), ruling out a generalized effect of body movement on somatosensory processing. We suggest that active movement resets timing mechanisms in preparation for the new scenario that the movement will cause, eliminating inappropriate biases in perceived time. Our brain seems to utilize the intention-to-move signals to retune its perceptual machinery appropriately, to prepare to extract new temporal information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2092-2100
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 15 2012


  • Action
  • Adaptation
  • Tactile velocity
  • Time perception
  • Touch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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