The pattern and habituation of the orienting response in man and rats

Brigitte Rockstroh, Marga Johnen, Thomas Elbert, Werner Lutzenberger, Niels Birbaumer, Klaus Rudolph, Joachim Ostwald, Hans Ulrich Schnitzler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Autonomic and central nervous indices of the orienting response (OR) were investigated in awake human subjects and sleeping rats. Ten acoustic stimuli of 60 dB and two stimuli of 80 dB were presented for 10 s each with a constant interstimulus interval of 50 s. Responses were averaged across subjects for each single trial. An exponential fit to scores of each physiological variable was used to compare OR, habituation and dishabituation between samples and variables. An OR to the first stimulus, habituation of response amplitude, and dishabituation in response to the change in stimulus intensity were observed for event-related EEG desynchronization, a negative-positive evoked potential complex in humans and rats, as well as for skin conductance in humans. While heart rate did not show systematic changes across the 60 dB tones in both samples, a deceleration was observed in response to the first 80 dB tone. Results suggest comparable patterns of orienting to acoustic stimuli and habituation of the OR in the awake human and the sleeping rat, suggesting the possibility of OR as a unitary response. Species differed with respect to speed of habituation but not with respect to sensitivity towards stimulus change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-182
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 1987


  • Event-related desynchronization
  • Evoked potential
  • Habituation
  • Heart rate
  • Orienting response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'The pattern and habituation of the orienting response in man and rats'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this