Regional cerebral blood flow increases during preparation for and processing of sensory stimuli
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Preparing for and processing of sensory stimuli are energy-requiring processes. We attempted to assess the relative contributions of these processes to increases in regional cerebral perfusion. Nineteen healthy right-handed subjects were examined while they were engaged in detecting tactile stimuli to the index finger 5 s after a cueing tone. Cerebral blood flow velocity (CBFV) modulations in the middle cerebral arteries (MCAs) were continuously measured by bilateral simultaneous transcranial Doppler ultrasonography. Tactile stimuli well above threshold per se did not produce a significant, relative CBFV increase in the contralateral MCA. However, when subjects were expecting a threshold tactile stimulus, there was a significant regional increase in CBFV in the hemisphere contralateral to the attended index finger for approximately 15 s, starting within the first seconds after the cueing. This increase was present even before the tactile stimulus was applied and also in sessions when the stimulus was omitted. We conclude that preparation of the cortex causes a stronger regional cerebral blood flow increase than the processing of the tactile stimulus itself.
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