Stimulus Intervals Modulate the Balance of Brain Activity in the Human Primary Somatosensory Cortex: An ERP Study

Yang Liu, Bo Dong, Jiajia Yang, Yoshimichi Ejima, Jinglong Wu, Qiong Wu, Ming Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neuronal excitation and inhibition occur in the brain at the same time, and brain activation reflects changes in the sum of excitation and inhibition. This principle has been well-established in lower-level sensory systems, including vision and touch, based on animal studies. However, it is unclear how the somatosensory system processes the balance between excitation and inhibition. In the present ERP study, we modified the traditional spatial attention paradigm by adding double stimuli presentations at short intervals (i.e., 10, 30, and 100 ms). Seventeen subjects participated in the experiment. Five types of stimulation were used in the experiment: a single stimulus (one raised pin for 40 ms), standard stimulus (eight pins for 40 ms), and double stimuli presented at intervals of 10, 30, and 100 ms. The subjects were asked to attend to a particular finger and detect whether the standard stimulus was presented to that finger. The results showed a clear attention-related ERP component in the single stimulus condition, but the suppression components associated with the three interval conditions seemed to be dominant in somatosensory areas. In particular, we found the strongest suppression effect in the ISI-30 condition (interval of 30 ms) and that the suppression and enhancement effects seemed to be counterbalanced in both the ISI-10 and ISI-100 conditions (intervals of 10 and 100 ms, respectively). This type of processing may allow humans to easily discriminate between multiple stimuli on the same body part.

Original languageEnglish
Article number571369
JournalFrontiers in Neuroinformatics
Publication statusPublished - Jan 27 2021


  • ERP
  • enhancement and suppression
  • interstimulus interval
  • primary somatosensory cortex
  • traditional spatial attention paradigm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications


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