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Movement of environmental threats modifies the relevance of the defensive eye-blink in a spatially-tuned manner.

Somervail, R., Bufacchi, R.J., Guo, Y., Kilintari, M., Novembre, G., Swapp, D., Steed, A. and Iannetti, G.D., 2019. Movement of environmental threats modifies the relevance of the defensive eye-blink in a spatially-tuned manner. Scientific Reports, 9 (1), -.

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DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-40075-x

Abstract

Subcortical reflexive motor responses are under continuous cortical control to produce the most effective behaviour. For example, the excitability of brainstem circuitry subserving the defensive hand-blink reflex (HBR), a response elicited by intense somatosensory stimuli to the wrist, depends on a number of properties of the eliciting stimulus. These include face-hand proximity, which has allowed the description of an HBR response field around the face (commonly referred to as a defensive peripersonal space, DPPS), as well as stimulus movement and probability of stimulus occurrence. However, the effect of stimulus-independent movements of objects in the environment has not been explored. Here we used virtual reality to test whether and how the HBR-derived DPPS is affected by the presence and movement of threatening objects in the environment. In two experiments conducted on 40 healthy volunteers, we observed that threatening arrows flying towards the participant result in DPPS expansion, an effect directionally-tuned towards the source of the arrows. These results indicate that the excitability of brainstem circuitry subserving the HBR is continuously adjusted, taking into account the movement of environmental objects. Such adjustments fit in a framework where the relevance of defensive actions is continually evaluated, to maximise their survival value.

Item Type:Article
ISSN:2045-2322
Group:Faculty of Science & Technology
ID Code:34612
Deposited By: Unnamed user with email symplectic@symplectic
Deposited On:02 Oct 2020 13:48
Last Modified:02 Oct 2020 13:48

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