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Somatosensory evoked potentials that index lateral inhibition are modulated according to the mode of perceptual processing: comparing or combining multi-digit tactile motion

Arslanova, I; Wang, K; Gomi, H; Haggard, P; (2020) Somatosensory evoked potentials that index lateral inhibition are modulated according to the mode of perceptual processing: comparing or combining multi-digit tactile motion. Cognitive Neuroscience 10.1080/17588928.2020.1839403. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Many perceptual studies focus on the brain’s capacity to discriminate between stimuli. However, our normal experience of the world also involves integrating multiple stimuli into a single perceptual event. Neural mechanisms such as lateral inhibition are believed to enhance local differences between sensory inputs from nearby regions of the receptor surface. However, this mechanism would seem dysfunctional when sensory inputs need to be combined rather than contrasted. Here, we investigated whether the brain can strategically regulate the strength of suppressive interactions that underlie lateral inhibition between finger representations in human somatosensory processing. To do this, we compared sensory processing between conditions that required either comparing or combining information. We delivered two simultaneous tactile motion trajectories to index and middle fingertips of the right hand. Participants had to either compare the directions of the two stimuli, or to combine them to form their average direction. To reveal preparatory tuning of somatosensory cortex, we used an established event-related potential design to measure the interaction between cortical representations evoked by digital nerve shocks immediately before each tactile stimulus. Consistent with previous studies, we found a clear suppression between cortical activations when participants were instructed to compare the tactile motion directions. Importantly, this suppression was significantly reduced when participants had to combine the same stimuli. These findings suggest that the brain can strategically switch between a comparative and a combinative mode of somatosensory processing, according to the perceptual goal, by preparatorily adjusting the strength of a process akin to lateral inhibition.

Type: Article
Title: Somatosensory evoked potentials that index lateral inhibition are modulated according to the mode of perceptual processing: comparing or combining multi-digit tactile motion
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/17588928.2020.1839403
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/17588928.2020.1839403
Language: English
Additional information: This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-ncnd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Keywords: Touch perception; tactile motion; multi-digit integration; somatosensoryevoked potentials; suppressive interaction; lateral inhibition
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10118442
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