Integration of Multiple Simultaneous Stimuli within and between Somatosensory sub-Modalities

Cataldo, Antonio (2017) Integration of Multiple Simultaneous Stimuli within and between Somatosensory sub-Modalities, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Joint international phd program in cognitive neuroscience, 29 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/8164.
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Psychological characterisation of the somatosensory system often focusses on minimal units of perception, such as detection, localisation, and magnitude estimation of single events. Research on how multiple simultaneous stimuli are aggregated to create integrated, synthetic experiences is rarer. This thesis aims to shed a light on the mechanisms underlying the integration of multiple simultaneous stimuli, within and between different sub-modalities of the somatosensory system. First, we investigated the ability of healthy individuals to perceive the total intensity of composite somatosensory patterns. We found that the overall intensity of tactile, cold, or warm patterns was systematically overestimated when the multiple simultaneous stimuli had different intensities. Perception of somatosensory totals was biased towards the most salient element in the pattern. Furthermore, we demonstrated that peak-biased aggregation is a genuine perceptual phenomenon which does not rely on the discrimination of the parts, but is rather based on the salience of each stimulus. Next, we studied a classical thermal illusion to assess participants’ ability to localise thermal stimuli delivered on the fingers either in isolation, or in uniform and non-uniform patterns. We found that despite a surprisingly high accuracy in reporting the location of a single stimulus, when participants were presented with non-uniform patterns, their ability to identify the thermal state of a specific finger was completely abolished. Lastly, we investigated the perceptual and neural correlates of thermo-nociceptive interaction during the presentation of multiple thermal stimuli. We found that inhibition of pain by warmth was independent from both the position and the number of thermal stimuli administered. Our results suggest that nonlinear integration of multiple stimuli, within and between somatosensory sub-modalities, may be an efficient way by which the somatosensory system synthesises the complexity of reality, providing an extended and coherent perception of the world, in spite of its deep bandwidth limitations.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Cataldo, Antonio
Dottorato di ricerca
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
Somatosensation, tactile perception, thermal perception, thermo-tactile interaction, somatosensory integration, multi-digits stimulation
Data di discussione
22 Maggio 2017

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