Neuronal responses in somatosensory cortical areas 3b and 1-2 (S1) were recorded during an attention task involving cue directed selection of one of three simultaneous stimuli: dual sinewave shaped vibrotactile stimuli applied to mirror sites on both hands or a similarly timed auditory tone. The cued stimulus occurred with one of two equally probable patterns: a constant amplitude vibration or the latter with a superimposed brief sinewave amplitude pulse midway during stimulation. Uncued stimuli always contained amplitude pulses. Two monkeys signaled the absence or presence of an amplitude pulse by appropriately moving a foot pedal up or down. Cues initiated trials by marking the location where the monkey had to discriminate the stimulus pattern. Cue location and stimulus pattern varied randomly per trial. Approximately 50% of cells (44/77 in 3b and 39/77 in 1-2) had significantly different firing rates to stimulation cued to the contralateral hand relative to spatially cuing the ipsilateral hand or cross-modally the auditory stimulus. Relatively suppressed firing rates during times prior to the epoch containing amplitude pulses improved signal-to-noise ratios for responses to amplitude pulses. Instances of significant enhanced activity during and after intervals with amplitude pulses were rare and relative to suppressed activity when cues directed attention to the ipsilateral hand or auditory stimulus. The present findings suggest that attention influences even the earliest stage somatosensory cortical processing. Findings were more modest in S1 than those previously seen in S2 (Burton et al., Somatosens Mot Res 14: 237-267, 1997), which supports the concept of multistage attention processes for touch.
- Selective attention
- Vibrotactile stimulation