Objective assessment of cognitive factors involved in visceral perception by using event-related cerebral evoked responses to esophageal target stimulation in man.
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Evoked potential (EP) studies provide an objective measure of the neural pathways involved with perception of gastrointestinal stimulation. The effects of cognitive factors, such as anticipation or awareness, on EP responses are not known. We compared the EP response to esophageal electrical stimulation with the cortical activity associated with target detection and anticipation of the same stimulus. In 12 healthy men (26.8+/-6 years old), esophageal electrical stimulation (0.2 Hz, 0.2 msec, 15 mA) was applied, and the EP recorded using scalp electrodes. A computerized model of randomly applied target stimuli (1:5 ratio) was used to separately record the EP associated with stimulation and the event-related cognitive EP associated with a dual task-related or anticipated stimulation approach. A periodic electrical stimulus represented the nontarget stimulus and a second electrical impulse (oddball model) or an omitted stimulus (anticipatory model) the target stimulus. The event-related cognitive EP responses were also compared with standard and anticipatory auditory P300 evoked potentials. The esophageal and auditory oddball stimulus approach elicited event-related P300EP in all subjects. P300EP associated with electrical stimulation had a longer peak latency (P < 0.0001) and smaller amplitude than those obtained with auditory stimulation. Anticipatory evoked potentials could be obtained by electrical skipped stimulation in 8 of 12 subjects. These EP were similar to those obtained with omitted auditory target stimulation, although of significantly smaller amplitude than auditory standard P300EP (P < 0.001). In conclusion, the brain response associated with directed effortful processing of discriminate esophageal stimuli consists of a large event-related potential (P300EP). Anticipatory stimulation produces a similar event-related cortical response, which is associated with attention to and awareness of the actual stimulus. The P300EP to gastrointestinal stimuli may provide an objective and powerful electrophysiological tool for the assessment of the cognitive factors associated with visceral perception.
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