These experiments assessed whether the impairment in proprioceptive acuity in the hand during 'interfering' cutaneous stimulation could be caused by inputs from Pacinian corpuscles. The ability to detect passive movements at the proximal interphalangeal joint of the index finger was measured when vibrotactile stimuli were applied to the adjacent middle finger and thenar eminence at frequencies and amplitudes that favour activation of rapidly adapting cutaneous afferents. Inputs from Pacinian corpuscles are favoured with high-frequency vibration (300 Hz), while those from Meissner corpuscles are favoured by lower frequencies (30 Hz). Detection of movement was significantly impaired when 300 Hz (20 microm peak-to-peak amplitude) complex vibration or 300 Hz (50 microm) sinusoidal vibration was applied to the middle finger and thenar eminence. In contrast, detection of movements was not altered by low-frequency sinusoidal vibration at 30 Hz with an amplitude of 50 microm or with a larger amplitude matched in subjective intensity to the 300 Hz sinusoidal stimulus. Thus it is unlikely that the impairment in detection was due to attention being diverted by vibration of an adjacent digit. In addition, an increase in amplitude of 300 Hz vibration led to a greater impairment of movement detection, so that the impairment was graded with the input. The time taken to nominate the direction of applied movement also increased during 300 Hz but not during 30 Hz sinusoidal vibration. These findings suggest that stimuli which preferentially activate Pacinian, but not Meissner corpuscles, impair proprioceptive acuity in a movement detection task.