A ratio code for vibrotactile pitch

Elizabeth A. Roy, Mark Hollins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Subjective impressions of pitch for 80 different sinusoidal vibrotactile stimuli delivered to the index finger were measured by free magnitude estimation in four subjects. In three of the subjects, pitch at a given frequency decreased as stimulus amplitude increased. The data of these subjects were well described by a model of pitch based on the relative levels of activation of the three major tactile channels. The main element in this model was a ratio of P channel activity to the sum of the activity levels of the P, NPI, and NPIII channels. Activity levels of the channels were estimated on the basis of the psychophysical literature, including a study of vibrotactile loudness using the same subjects and stimuli as those employed here. A fourth subject, whose pattern of loudness judgments had previously been shown to differ from those of the other subjects, did not conform to this pitch model: her data revealed significant increases in pitch with increases in amplitude, and appear to reflect an inability to combine signals across vibrotactile channels. Pitch changes resulting from vibrotactile adaptation were directionally consistent with our ratio model: pitch was slightly increased by adaptation to a 25 Hz stimulus, and slightly decreased by 200 Hz adaptation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-145
Number of pages12
JournalSomatosensory and Motor Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Channel
  • Magnitude estimation
  • Model
  • Pitch
  • Ratio code
  • Vibrotaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Sensory Systems


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