We have investigated the neural basis of perceptual certainty using a simple discrimination paradigm. Psychophysical experiments have shown that a pair of identical electrical stimuli to the skin or a pair of auditory clicks to the ears are consistently perceived as two separate events in time when the inter-stimulus interval (ISIs) is long, and perceived as simultaneous events when the ISIs are very short. The perceptual certainty of having received one or two stimuli decreases when the ISI lies between these two extremes and this is reflected in inconsistent reporting of the percept across trials. In two fMRI experiments, 14 healthy subjects received either paired electrical pulses delivered to the forearm (ISIs = 5-110 ms) or paired auditory clicks presented binaurally (ISIs = 1-20 ms). For each subject and modality, we calculated a consistency index (CI) representing the level of perceptual certainty. The task activated pre-SMA and anterior cingulate cortex, plus the cerebellum and the basal ganglia. Critically, activity in the right putamen was linearly dependent on CI for both tactile and auditory discrimination, with topographically distinct effects in the two modalities. These results support a role for the human putamen in the "automatic" perception of temporal features of tactile and auditory stimuli.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience