Practice-related improvements in somatosensory interval discrimination are temporally specific but generalize across skin location, hemisphere, and modality

Srikantan S. Nagarajan, David Trumbull Blake, Beverly A. Wright, Nancy Byl, Michael M. Merzenich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

137 Scopus citations


This paper concerns the characterization of performance and perceptual learning of somatosensory interval discrimination. The purposes of this study were to define (1) the performance characteristics for interval discrimination in the somatosensory system by naive adult humans, (2) the normal capacities for improvement in somatosensory interval discrimination, and (3) the extent of generalization of interval discrimination learning. In a two-alternative forced choice procedure, subjects were presented with two pairs of vibratory pulses. One pair was separated in time by a fixed base interval; a second pair was separated by a target interval that was always longer than the base interval. Subjects indicated which pair was separated by the target interval The length of the target interval was varied adaptively to determine discrimination thresholds. After initial determination of naive abilities, subjects were trained for 900 trials per day at base intervals of either 75 or 125 msec for 10-15 d. Significant improvements in thresholds resulted from training. Learning at the trained base interval generalized completely across untrained skin locations on the trained hand and to the corresponding untrained skin location in the contralateral hand. The learning partially generalized to untrained base intervals similar to the trained one, but not to more distant base intervals. Learning with somatosensory stimuli generalized to auditory stimuli presented at comparable base intervals. These results demonstrate temporal specificity in somatosensory interval discrimination learning that generalizes across skin location, hemisphere, and modality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1559-1570
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 1998
Externally publishedYes



  • Auditory
  • Hearing
  • Human
  • Interval
  • Perceptual learning
  • Psychophysics
  • Somatosensory
  • Tactile
  • Temporal processing
  • Time
  • Touch
  • Vibrotactile

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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