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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Human sensory-evoked responses differ coincident with either "fusion-memory" or "flash-memory", as shown by stimulus repetition-rate effects

Don L Jewett14*, Toryalai Hart1, Linda J Larson-Prior2, Bill Baird3, Marram Olson1, Michael Trumpis1, Katherine Makayed1 and Payam Bavafa1

Author Affiliations

1 Abratech Corporation, Sausalito, CA, USA.

2 Radiology Dept., Washington University, St. Louis, MO, USA.

3 Neurotechnology Research & Consulting, Oakland, CA, USA.

4 Emeritus Professor, University of California, San Francisco, USA.

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BMC Neuroscience 2006, 7:18  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-7-18

Published: 23 February 2006

Abstract

Background:

A new method has been used to obtain human sensory evoked-responses whose time-domain waveforms have been undetectable by previous methods. These newly discovered evoked-responses have durations that exceed the time between the stimuli in a continuous stream, thus causing an overlap which, up to now, has prevented their detection. We have named them "A-waves", and added a prefix to show the sensory system from which the responses were obtained (visA-waves, audA-waves, somA-waves).

Results:

When A-waves were studied as a function of stimulus repetition-rate, it was found that there were systematic differences in waveshape at repetition-rates above and below the psychophysical region in which the sensation of individual stimuli fuse into a continuity. The fusion phenomena is sometimes measured by a "Critical Fusion Frequency", but for this research we can only identify a frequency-region [which we call the STZ (

    Sensation-Transition Zone
)]. Thus, the A-waves above the STZ differed from those below the STZ, as did the sensations.

Study of the psychophysical differences in auditory and visual stimuli, as shown in this paper, suggest that different stimulus features are detected, and remembered, at stimulation rates above and below STZ.

Conclusion:

The results motivate us to speculate that:

1) Stimulus repetition-rates above the STZ generate waveforms which underlie "fusion-memory" whereas rates below the STZ show neuronal processing in which "flash-memory" occurs.

2) These two memories differ in both duration and mechanism, though they may occur in the same cell groups.

3) The differences in neuronal processing may be related to "figure" and "ground" differentiation.

We conclude that A-waves provide a novel measure of neural processes that can be detected on the human scalp, and speculate that they may extend clinical applications of evoked response recordings. If A-waves also occur in animals, it is likely that A-waves will provide new methods for comparison of activity of neuronal populations and single cells.