Methodological considerations for a better somatosensory gating paradigm: The impact of the inter-stimulus interval

Rachel K. Spooner, Jacob A. Eastman, Alex I. Wiesman, Tony W. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Sensory gating (SG) is a neurophysiological phenomenon whereby the response to the second stimulus in a repetitive pair is attenuated. This filtering of irrelevant or redundant information is thought to preserve neural resources for more behaviorally-relevant stimuli and thereby reflect the functional inhibition of sensory input. Developing a SG paradigm in which optimal suppression of sensory input is achieved requires investigators to consider numerous parameters such as stimulus intensity, time between stimulus pairs, and the inter-stimulus interval (ISI) within each pair. While these factors have been well defined for the interrogation of auditory gating, the precise parameters for eliciting optimal gating in the somatosensory domain are far less understood. To address this, we investigated the impact of varying the ISI within each identical pair of stimuli on gating using magnetoencephalography (MEG). Specifically, 25 healthy young adults underwent paired-pulse electrical stimulation of the median nerve with increasing ISIs between 100 and 1000 ​ms (in 100 ​ms increments). Importantly, for correspondence with previous studies of somatosensory gating, both time-domain and oscillatory neural responses to somatosensory stimulation were evaluated. Our results indicated that gating of somatosensory input was optimal (i.e., best suppression) for trials with an ISI of 200–220 ​ms, as evidenced by the smallest gating ratios and through statistical modeling estimations of optimal suppression. Importantly, this was true irrespective of whether oscillatory or evoked neural activity was used to calculate SG. Interestingly, oscillatory metrics of gating calculated using peak gamma (30-75 ​Hz) power and frequency revealed more robust gating (i.e., smaller ratios) than those calculated using time-domain neural responses, suggesting that high frequency oscillations may provide a more sensitive measure of SG. These findings have important implications for the development of optimal protocols and analysis pipelines to interrogate SG and inhibitory processing with a higher degree of sensitivity and accuracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number117048
StatePublished - Oct 15 2020


  • Inter-stimulus interval
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Oscillatory activity
  • Somatosensory
  • Time-domain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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