Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

P50 Sensory Gating Is Related to Performance on Select Tasks of Cognitive Inhibition

Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

P50 Sensory Gating Is Related to Performance on Select Tasks of Cognitive Inhibition

Article excerpt

P50 suppression deficits have been documented in clinical and nonclinical populations, but the behavioral correlates of impaired auditory sensory gating remain poorly understood. In the present study, we examined the relationship between P50 gating and healthy adults' performance on cognitive inhibition tasks. On the basis of load theory (Lavie, Hirst, de Fockert, & Viding, 2004), we predicted that a high perceptual load, a possible consequence of poor auditory P50 sensory gating, would have differential (i.e., positive vs. negative) effects on performance of cognitive inhibition tasks. A dissociation was observed such that P50 gating was negatively related to interference resolution on a Stroop task and positively related to response inhibition on a go/no-go task. Our findings support the idea that a high perceptual load may be beneficial to Stroop performance because of the reduced processing of distractors but detrimental to performance on the go/no-go task because of interference with stimulus discrimination.

Broadly defined, sensory gating refers to the brain's selective processing of sensory stimuli. One such modulatory function is the filtering of repetitive stimuli from the environment. Auditory P50 sensory gating is the brain's suppression of an evoked response to a brief auditory stimulus presented just after an identical stimulus.1 This ERP appears relatively early in the processing stream (about 50 msec) and has been suggested to represent an adaptive mechanism that prevents organisms from becoming overwhelmed with redundant sensory information from the environment (Croft, Lee, Bertolot, & Gruzelier, 2001). However, the functional relevance of this neurophysiological measure has not been demonstrated.

P50 gating is typically quantified by computing a ratio of evoked amplitudes to auditory clicks in a paired-click design (de Wilde, Bour, Dingemans, Koelman, & Linszen, 2007). Although the auditory modality is by far the most well represented in the literature, there have been attempts to quantify visual (Adler, Waldo, & Freedman, 1985) and tactile (Arnfred, Eder, Hemmingsen, Glenthøj, & Chen, 2001) gating. Impairment of auditory P50 gating has been observed in a variety of clinical populations, including individuals with traumatic brain injury (Arciniegas et al., 2000), Alzheimer's disease (Jessen et al., 2001), panic disorder (Ghisolfi et al., 2006), and Huntington's disease (Uc, Skinner, Rodnitzky, & Garcia-Rill, 2003). The most notable is schizophrenia (Olincy et al., 2000), for which P50 suppression has been investigated as a potential endophenotype (Freedman et al., 1997; Gottesman & Gould, 2003). Disrupted P50 gating is not, however, limited to clinical populations. Individual differences in P50 gating have been demonstrated in healthy adults, with some participants' gating scores falling within the range of those observed in individuals with schizophrenia (Patterson et al., 2008). Relatively little is known, however, about the functional consequences of poor sensory gating. As was noted by Potter, Summerfelt, Gold, and Buchanan (2006), especially lacking are data relating P50 gating to measures of cognitive functioning.

In the few published studies in which this topic was examined, the primary cognitive process that has been evaluated is attention. Two approaches have been utilized. One approach involves instructing participants to count clicks that have either a high or low pitch and examining whether attention to the clicks modulates gating. Some findings indicate that gating is attenuated by this manipulation in normal controls, suggesting that attentional goals can influence the effectiveness of sensory gating processes (Guterman & Josiassen, 1994; Guterman, Josiassen, & Bashore, 1992; but see Jerger, Biggins, & Fein, 1992). The second approach involves examining the relationship between performance on neuropsychological measures of attention and P50 sensory gating. …

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