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Keywords:

  • Prepulse inhibition;
  • Startle;
  • Blink reflex;
  • Exogenous evoked potentials;
  • Midlatency potentials;
  • Magnitude estimation

Abstract

Prepulse inhibition of the reflex blink by a weak stimulus shortly preceding a blink-eliciting stimulus has been described as a sensorimotor gating phenomenon that may protect processing of the first stimulus. To determine how a stimulus configuration that elicits prepulse inhibition also affects exogenous evoked potentials and perceived loudness of the paired stimuli, the three types of response were recorded simultaneously under four conditions: tone pairs of 75–110 dB and 75–75 dB and single control tones of each intensity. Two studies using different intrapair intervals found that blinks and exogenous potentials peaking after 50 ms were smaller for the second tone of pairs than for equal-intensity single tones. Pairing also reduced the loudness of 110-dB second tones, but the loudness of 75-dB first and second tones was unaffected or increased. These effects are discussed in terms of parallel processing of transient, unmodulated information in specific paths, steady-state modulated information in nonspecific paths, and a context-dependent effect on loudness judgments.