Psychophysiology 2016 May 11;53(5):723-32. Epub 2016 Jan 11.
School of Psychology, University of New South Wales (UNSW Australia), Sydney, Australia.
Self-suppression refers to the phenomenon that sensations initiated by our own movements are typically less salient, and elicit an attenuated neural response, compared to sensations resulting from changes in the external world. Evidence for self-suppression is provided by previous ERP studies in the auditory modality, which have found that healthy participants typically exhibit a reduced auditory N1 component when auditory stimuli are self-initiated as opposed to externally initiated. However, the literature investigating self-suppression in the visual modality is sparse, with mixed findings and experimental protocols. An EEG study was conducted to expand our understanding of self-suppression across different sensory modalities. Healthy participants experienced either an auditory (tone) or visual (pattern-reversal) stimulus following a willed button press (self-initiated), a random interval (externally initiated, unpredictable onset), or a visual countdown (externally initiated, predictable onset-to match the intrinsic predictability of self-initiated stimuli), while EEG was continuously recorded. Reduced N1 amplitudes for self- versus externally initiated tones indicated that self-suppression occurred in the auditory domain. In contrast, the visual N145 component was amplified for self- versus externally initiated pattern reversals. Externally initiated conditions did not differ as a function of their predictability. These findings highlight a difference in sensory processing of self-initiated stimuli across modalities, and may have implications for clinical disorders that are ostensibly associated with abnormal self-suppression.