Physiological and Perceptual Sensory Attenuation Have Different Underlying Neurophysiological Correlates

  • Palmer C
  • Davare M
  • Kilner J
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Sensory attenuation, the top-down filtering or gating of afferent information, has been extensively studied in two fields: physiological and perceptual. Physiological sensory attenuation is represented as a decrease in the amplitude of the primary and secondary components of the somatosensory evoked potential (SEP) before and during movement. Perceptual sensory attenuation, described using the analogy of a persons’ inability to tickle oneself, is a reduction in the perception of the afferent input of a self-produced tactile sensation due to the central cancellation of the reafferent signal by the efference copy of the motor command to produce the action. The fields investigating these two areas have remained isolated, so the relationship between them is unclear. The current study delivered median nerve stimulation to produce SEPs during a force-matching paradigm (used to quantify perceptual sensory attenuation) in healthy human subjects to determine whether SEP gating correlated with the behavior. Our results revealed that these two forms of attenuation have dissociable neurophysiological correlates and are likely functionally distinct, which has important implications for understanding neurological disorders in which one form of sensory attenuation but not the other is impaired. Time–frequency analyses revealed a negative correlation over sensorimotor cortex between gamma-oscillatory activity and the magnitude of perceptual sensory attenuation. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that gamma-band power is related to prediction error and that this might underlie perceptual sensory attenuation.




Palmer, C. E., Davare, M., & Kilner, J. M. (2016). Physiological and Perceptual Sensory Attenuation Have Different Underlying Neurophysiological Correlates. The Journal of Neuroscience, 36(42), 10803–10812.

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