How we “listen” to ground vibrations
We all know the sensation of a mobile phone vibrating in our hand when announcing an incoming call. Why are these vibrations so perceptible to us? It turns out that specialized mechanoreceptors exist in our body which transduce vibrations into neural signals sent to the brain. In this study we have asked how physical features of substrate vibrations are actually encoded in the brain.
When delivering vibrations to the forepaw of mice we discovered that neurons in the somatosensory cortex encode vibrations in a manner that is analogous to how neurons in the auditory cortex are activated by sound. These findings published in the scientific journal Nature suggest that feeling a vibrating phone relies on similar perceptual and neural processes as hearing it ring.
Interview by Adrien Zerbini of CQFD on the Swiss National Radio: