Since most natural surfaces are complex and vary in amplitude and spatial frequency, it might be interesting to consider gratings not in the spatial domain, but in the spatial-frequency domain. Detection thresholds for amplitude modulation (AM) and frequency modulation (FM) in sinusoidal gratings were measured for seven participants. Participants moved their fingers actively across the gratings. Although the two types of modulation are quite different in the spatial domain, they have many features in common in the frequency domain. In previous research (Nefs et al 2001 Perception 30 1263 - 1274) we measured the discrimination thresholds for amplitude and frequency for sinusoidal gratings. We hypothesised then that these thresholds could be used to predict the discriminability of other types of gratings. In the present study, we did indeed find that the FM and AM detection thresholds can be understood quite well by these discrimination thresholds. The results indicate that the tactual system contains parallel psychophysical channels that filter and integrate the power of stimuli within critical bands. With these results, we are also able to calculate the critical bandwidth for active dynamic touch. We estimated the critical bandwidth surrounding the spatial frequency of 2 cycles cm-1 to be about 125% of that spatial frequency. This value for the critical band for spatial frequency is incompatible with previous findings for temporal frequencies in vibrotactile research. This indicates that dynamic spatial-frequency discrimination is not likely to be done by temporal frequency.