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Keywords:

  • Somatosensation;
  • Attention;
  • Orienting response;
  • Intermodal attention;
  • Event-related potential

Abstract

Our previous work has identified four components of the somatosensory-evoked potential elicited by painful electrical stimulation of the sural nerve that might index an involuntary process that detects and orients attention toward threatening somatosensory stimuli. These components include a negativity over the central scalp at 70–110 ms poststimulus (CN70-110), a contralateral temporal negativity at 100–180 ms (CTN100-180), a frontocentral negativity at 130–200 ms, and a positive potential at 270–340 ms (the pain-related P2). The results of the endogenous cuing experiment used here suggest that the CN70-110 and CTN100-180 index somatosensory cortex activity that detects a threatening somatosensory stimulus when the subject's attention is focused on another stimulus modality but not another location. The P2, on the other hand, appears to index inferior parietal cortex activity that is specifically involved in orienting spatial attention.