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    Abrupt increases of sensory input (onsets) likely reflect the occurrence of novel events or objects in the environment, potentially requiring immediate behavioral responses. Accordingly, onsets elicit a transient and widespread modulation of ongoing electrocortical activity: the Vertex Potential (VP), which is likely related to the optimisation of rapid behavioral responses. In contrast, the functional significance of the brain response elicited by abrupt decreases of sensory input (offsets) is more elusive, and a detailed comparison of onset and offset VPs is lacking. In four experiments conducted on 44 humans, we observed that onset and offset VPs share several phenomenological and functional properties: they (1) have highly similar scalp topographies across time, (2) are both largely comprised of supramodal neural activity, (3) are both highly sensitive to surprise and (4) co-occur with similar modulations of ongoing motor output. These results demonstrate that the onset and offset VPs largely reflect the activity of a common supramodal brain network, likely consequent to the activation of the extralemniscal sensory system which runs in parallel with core sensory pathways. The transient activation of this system has clear implications in optimizing the behavioral responses to surprising environmental changes. © The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press.


    R Somervail, R J Bufacchi, C Salvatori, L Neary-Zajiczek, Y Guo, G Novembre, G D Iannetti. Brain Responses to Surprising Stimulus Offsets: Phenomenology and Functional Significance. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991). 2022 May 14;32(10):2231-2244

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    PMID: 34668519

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