Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

What Good Are Fingerprints?

Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

What Good Are Fingerprints?

Article excerpt

TACTILE PERCEPTION

Scheibert et al. (2009). The role of fingerprints in the coding of tactile information probed with a biomimetic sensor. Science. Go to www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1166467.

Although fingerprints usually enter our awareness as elements in some real or fictional crime story, it seems clear that they did not evolve to serve as little ID cards. What, if anything, are they for? One classic hypothesis is that they improve your grip. In a current article, Scheibert et al. explore evidence for a theory that might be more interesting to readers of AP&P: Fingerprint ridges may be part of the transduction mechanism that turns fine surface texture into a signal in the nervous system.

Static texture is not much of a stimulus, at least not when the elements are small. Texture must be turned into vibration by moving the detector (e.g. the fingers) relative to the surface. The vibrations are picked up by Pacinian fibers that behave as bandpass filters with an optimal frequency around 250 Hz. …

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