The Import of Skin Tissue Dynamics in Tactile Sensing
The mammalian skin is a densely innervated soft tissue where embedded neural mechanoreceptors report to the brain the mechanical events arising at its surface. Up to now, models of the transformations of these events into neural signals relied on quasistatic or viscoelastic mechanical models of the skin. Here, we employed a model which, in addition to elasticity and viscosity, accounted for mass to accurately reproduce the propagation of mechanical waves observed in vivo. Skin dynamics converted sensory inputs into rapidly evolving spatiotemporal patterns that magnified the information made available to a population of mechanoreceptors. Accounting for dynamics greatly enhanced the separability of tactile inputs and was efficient for a large range of mechanical parameter values. This advantage vanished when these parameters were set to approximate the quasistatic or viscoelastic cases.