Cortical processing of irrelevant somatosensory information from the leg is altered by attention during early movement preparation
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The ability to actively suppress, or gate, irrelevant sensory information is needed for safe and efficient walking in sensory-rich environments. Both attention and the late phase of motor preparation alter somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) in healthy adults. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of attention on the processing of irrelevant somatosensory information during the early phase of preparation of plantarflexion movements. Young healthy individuals received tibial nerve stimulation while electroencephalography (EEG) recorded SEPs over the Cz electrode. Three conditions were tested in both legs: 1) Rest, 2) Attend To the stimulated limb, and 3) Attend Away from the stimulated limb. In conditions 2 and 3, vibration (80 Hz) was applied over the medial soleus muscle to cue voluntary plantarflexion movements of the stimulated (Attend To) or non-stimulated leg (Attend Away). Only SEPs delivered during early preparation were averaged for statistical analysis. Results demonstrated a main effect of condition for the N40 and N70 indicating that SEP amplitudes in the Attend To condition were smaller than rest (p ≤ 0.02). For the P50, no interaction effects or main effects were found (p ≥ 0.08). There was no main effect of leg for any component measured. The results indicate that gating of irrelevant sensory information during early preparation occurs in the leg when attention is directed within the same limb. If attention alters the somatosensory stimuli from a leg movement, then directing attention may affect safe community walking.
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