Previous studies have found that the detection of near-threshold stimuli is decreased immediately before movement and throughout movement production. This has been suggested to occur through the use of the internal forward model processing an efferent copy of the motor command and creating a prediction that is used to cancel out the resulting sensory feedback. Currently, there are no published accounts of the perception of tactile signals for motor tasks and contexts related to the lips during both speech planning and production. In this study, we measured the responsiveness of the somatosensory system during speech planning using light electrical stimulation below the lower lip by comparing perception during mixed speaking and silent reading conditions. Participants were asked to judge whether a constant near-threshold electrical stimulation (subject-specific intensity, 85% detected at rest) was present during different time points relative to an initial visual cue. In the speaking condition, participants overtly produced target words shown on a computer monitor. In the reading condition, participants read the same target words silently to themselves without any movement or sound. We found that detection of the stimulus was attenuated during speaking conditions while remaining at a constant level close to the perceptual threshold throughout the silent reading condition. Perceptual modulation was most intense during speech production and showed some attenuation just prior to speech production during the planning period of speech. This demonstrates that there is a significant decrease in the responsiveness of the somatosensory system during speech production as well as milliseconds before speech is even produced which has implications for speech disorders such as stuttering and schizophrenia with pronounced deficits in the somatosensory system.
- Somatosensory Modulation during Speech Planning