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Imperceptible somatosensory single pulse and pulse train stimulation oppositely modulate mu rhythm activity and perceptual performance

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Iliopoulos,  Fivos
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
MindBrainBody Institute, Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany;
International Max Planck Research School on the Life Course, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, ;

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Taskin,  Birol
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
MindBrainBody Institute, Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany;

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Villringer,  Arno
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
MindBrainBody Institute, Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany;

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Nierhaus,  Till
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Neurocomputation and Neuroimaging Unit, FU Berlin, Germany;

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Citation

Iliopoulos, F., Taskin, B., Villringer, A., & Nierhaus, T. (2020). Imperceptible somatosensory single pulse and pulse train stimulation oppositely modulate mu rhythm activity and perceptual performance. Cerebral Cortex, 30(12), 6284-6295. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhaa185.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-682A-6
Abstract
Subliminal stimulation alters conscious perception - a potential mechanism is the modulation of cortical background rhythms especially in the alpha range. Here, in the human somatosensory domain, we assessed effects of subthreshold (imperceptible) electrical finger nerve stimulation - either presented as single pulses or as brief (1 s) 7 Hz pulse trains-on mu-alpha rhythm and perceptual performance. In electroencephalography, subthreshold single pulses transiently (~150-350 ms poststimulus) increased mu activity (event-related synchronization), while, interestingly, subthreshold trains led to prolonged (>1 s) mu desynchronization. In psychophysics, detection of near-threshold target stimuli was consistently reduced when presented together with subthreshold trains (at three delays), whereas for targets paired with subthreshold single pulses detection remained unaffected (30 and 180 ms) or was even elevated (60 ms). Though both imperceptible, single pulses and pulse trains exerted opposite effects on neural signaling and perception. We suggest that the common neural basis is preferential activation of cortical inhibitory interneurons. While the inhibitory impact of a subthreshold single pulse (reflected by mu synchronization) is not psychophysically detectable-rather perception may be facilitated-repetition of the same subthreshold pulse shifts the excitation-inhibition balance toward an inhibitory cortical state (reflected by perceptual impediment) accompanied by mu desynchronization. These differential findings provide novel insights on the notion of alpha activity mediating functional inhibition.