Dishabituation of laser-evoked EEG responses: dissecting the effect of certain and uncertain changes in stimulus spatial location


The repetition of nociceptive stimuli of identical modality, intensity and location at short (1 s) and constant inter-stimulus interval (ISI) determines a strong habituation of the corresponding electroencephalographic (EEG) responses. To understand what determines this response habituation, we (1) examined the effect of introducing a selective change in the spatial location of the repeated stimulus (i.e., without altering its modality, intensity and timing), and (2) dissected the relative contribution of bottom-up, stimulus-driven spatial changes and top-down, cognitive expectations of such a change. Multichannel EEG was recorded while participants received a triplet of stimuli (S1-S2-S3) delivered to the hand dorsum at 1-s ISI. S3 was delivered either to the same hand as S1 and S2 or to the other hand, and participants were either explicitly informed or not informed of the location of S3. We found that, unlike the introduction of a change in the sensory modality of the repeated stimulus (Valentini et al. in J Cogn Neurosci 23:2822-2837, 2011), introducing a change in its spatial location did not produce a significant dishabituation of the laser-evoked N1, N2 and P2 peaks, but only a small amplitude increase following the P2 peak, maximal on the hemisphere contralateral to the stimulated hand. Furthermore, the magnitude of the elicited responses was not significantly affected by cognitive expectations. Altogether, these results indicate that bottom-up, stimulus-driven novelty resulting from a change in stimulus spatial location does not revert the habituation caused by repetition suppression, but determines a small increase of neural activity over the contralateral central-parietal cortex, likely reflecting shifts in spatial attention.status: publishe

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