Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Differentially Affects Speed and Direction Judgments

Nestor Matthews, Bruce Luber, Ning Qian, and S Holly Lisanby, Exp. Brain Res. 2001, 140:397-406.
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This study was conducted to determine whether humans' judgments about the speed and direction of moving stimuli would be differentially affected by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Subjects viewed two successively presented moving stimuli that differed from each other both in the speed and direction of motion. Single pulse TMS was applied either medially (approximately 2 cm above the inion) or laterally (approximately 5 cm lateral to and 4 cm above the inion), while subjects judged the speed and direction differences. The physical stimulation (visual and TMS) was identical on the two tasks, as was discriminability (d') when TMS was not applied. We found significant criterion (b) shifts on the speed discrimination task at both stimulation sites. Specifically, on TMS trials the proportion of "slower" judgments increased significantly, consistent with subjective reports that stimuli often appeared to slow when TMS was applied. The subjective reports indicated no corresponding change in perceived direction. We also found that speed discriminability was impaired significantly more than direction discriminability, but only when TMS was applied medially. Indeed, after controlling for TMS-related changes in reaction time, speed discriminability was impaired significantly while direction discriminability remained largely intact. This dissociation suggests that the sensory response constraining speed discrimination is at least partially independent from the sensory response constraining direction discrimination. Combined with previous psychophysical data, the present data suggest a double dissociation between speed and direction discrimination in humans.

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