The goal of this study is to establish a link between somatosensory physiology and psychophysics at the probabilistic level. The model for a population of monkey rapidly adapting (RA) mechanoreceptive fibers by Güçlü and Bolanowski (2002) was used to study the probability of stimulus detection when a 40 Hz sinusoidal stimulation is applied with a constant contactor size (2 mm radius) on the terminal phalanx. In the model, the detection was assumed to be mediated by one or more active fibers. Two hypothetical receptive field organizations (uniformly random and gaussian) with varying average innervation densities were considered. At a given stimulus-contactor location, changing the stimulus amplitude generates sigmoid probability-of-detection curves for both receptive field organizations. The psychophysical results superimposed on these probability curves suggest that 5 to 10 active fibers may be required for detection. The effects of the contactor location on the probability of detection reflect the pattern of innervation in the model. However, the psychophysical data do not match with the predictions from the populations with uniform or gaussian distributed receptive field centers. This result may be due to some unknown mechanical factors along the terminal phalanx, or simply because a different receptive field organization is present. It has been reported that human observers can detect one single spike in an RA fiber. By considering the probability of stimulus detection across subjects and RA populations, this article proves that more than one active fiber is indeed required for detection.

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