Relationship of extinction to perceptual thresholds for single stimuli

Kimford J. Meador, Patty G. Ray, Larry J. Day, David W. Loring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objective: To demonstrate the effects of target stimulus intensity on extinction to double simultaneous stimuli. Background: Attentional deficits contribute to extinction in patients with brain lesions, but extinction (i.e., masking) can also be produced in healthy subjects. The relationship of extinction to perceptual thresholds for single stimuli remains uncertain. Methods: Brief electrical pulses were applied simultaneously to the left and right index fingers of 16 healthy volunteers (8 young and 8 elderly adults) and 4 patients with right brain stroke (RBS). The stimulus to be perceived (i.e., target stimulus) was given at the lowest perceptual threshold to perceive any single stimulus (i.e., Minimal) and at the threshold to perceive 100% of single stimuli. The mask stimulus (i.e., stimulus given to block the target) was applied to the contralateral hand at intensities just below discomfort. Results: Extinction was less for target stimuli at 100% than Minimal threshold for healthy subjects. Extinction of left targets was greater in patients with RBS than elderly control subjects. Left targets were extinguished less than right in healthy subjects. In contrast, the majority of left targets were extinguished in patients with RBS even when right mask intensity was reduced below right 100% threshold for single stimuli. RBS patients had less extinction for right targets despite having greater left mask - threshold difference than control subjects. In patients with RBS, right "targets" at 100% threshold extinguished left "masks" (20%) almost as frequently as left masks extinguished right targets (32%). Conclusions: Subtle changes in target intensity affect extinction in healthy adults. Asymmetries in mask and target intensities (relative to single-stimulus perceptual thresholds) affect extinction in RBS patients less for left targets but more for right targets as compared with control subjects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1044-1047
Number of pages4
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 24 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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