In a dynamically changing environment, the ability to capture regularities in our sensory input helps us generate predictions about future events. In most sensory systems, the basic finding is clear: Knowing when something will happen improves performance on it [Nobre, A. C., & van Ede, F. (2017). Anticipated moments: Temporal structure in attention. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 19, 34–48, 2017]. We here examined the impact of temporal predictions on a less-explored modality: touch. Participants were instructed to detect a brief target embedded in an ongoing vibrotactile stimulus. Unbeknownst to them, the experiment had two timing conditions: In one part, the time of target onset was fixed and thus temporally predictable, whereas in the other, it could appear at a random time within the ongoing stimulation. We found a clear modulation of detection thresholds due to temporal predictability: Contrary to other sensory systems, detecting a predictable tactile target was worse relative to unpredictable targets. We discuss our findings within the framework of tactile suppression.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by funds from the James McDonnell Scholar Award for Understanding Human Cognition, the National Israeli Psychobiology Institute, and the Israel Science Foundation (all awarded to A. N. L.). As a library fellow, A. N. L.
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