Motor commands induce time compression for tactile stimuli,J Neurosci, 27 (34), 9164-9172.
Saccades cause compression of visual space around the saccadic target, and also a compression of time, both phenomena thought to be related to the problem of maintaining saccadic stability (Morrone et al., 2005; Burr and Morrone, 2011). Interestingly, similar phenomena occur at the time of hand movements, when tactile stimuli are systematically mislocalized in the direction of the movement (Dassonville, 1995; Watanabe et al., 2009). In this study, we measured whether hand movements also cause an alteration of the perceived timing of tactile signals. Human participants compared the temporal separation between two pairs of tactile taps while moving their right hand in response to an auditory cue. The first pair of tactile taps was presented at variable times with respect to movement with a fixed onset asynchrony of 150 ms. Two seconds after test presentation, when the hand was stationary, the second pair of taps was delivered with a variable temporal separation. Tactile stimuli could be delivered to either the right moving or left stationary hand. When the tactile stimuli were presented to the motor effector just before and during movement, their perceived temporal separation was reduced. The time compression was effector-specific, as perceived time was veridical for the left stationary hand. The results indicate that time intervals are compressed around the time of hand movements. As for vision, the mislocalizations of time and space for touch stimuli may be consequences of a mechanism attempting to achieve perceptual stability during tactile exploration of objects, suggesting common strategies within different sensorimotor systems.