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Níall Lally, Benjamin Frendo, Jörn Diedrichsen; Sensory cancellation of self-movement facilitates visual motion detection. Journal of Vision 2011;11(14):5. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/11.14.5.
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The nervous system continuously predicts the sensory consequences of self-generated actions. These predictions can be used to cancel self-generated sensory information. It has been hypothesized that this cancellation process may serve to increase the perceptual sensitivity to unpredicted external events. Here, we provide the first empirical evidence for this idea. Participants were required to detect coherent motion in a random dot motion display. The task was made more difficult by a set of superimposed distractor dots that had to be ignored. When these distractors moved congruently with an active arm movement, perceptual performance in detecting the coherent motion was superior compared to a condition in which the distractor motion did not match the arm movement. To test whether this difference was due to sensory cancellation of matching distractors, or to the attentional enhancement of non-matching distractors, we introduced a control condition without any overt movement. Our results indicate that improvements in the detection of visual motion are indeed caused by sensory cancellation of self-generated events. In conjunction with other recent results, our data therefore suggest that the nervous system is able to attenuate or facilitate self-generated visual stimuli in a task-dependent manner.
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