Evidence is still inconclusive regarding the locus of the stimulus intensity effect on information processing in reaction tasks. Miller, Ulrich, and Rinkenauer (1999) addressed this question by assessing the intensity effect on stimulus- and response-locked lateralized readiness potentials (LRPs) as indices of the sensory and motor parts of reaction time (RT). In the case of visual stimuli, they observed that application of brighter stimuli resulted in a shortening of RT and stimulus-locked LRP (S-LRP), but not of response-locked LRP (R-LRP). The results for auditory stimuli, however, were unclear. In spite of a clear RT reduction due to increased loudness, neither S-LRP nor R-LRP onset was affected. A reason for this failure might have been a relatively small range of intensity variation and the type of task. To check for this possibility, we performed three experiments in which broader ranges of stimulus intensities and simple, rather than choice, response tasks were used. Although the intensity effect on the R-LRP was negligible, S-LRP followed RT changes, irrespective of stimulus modality. These findings support the conclusion that stimulus intensity exerts its effect before the start of motoric processes. Finally, S-LRP and R-LRP findings are discussed within a broader information-processing perspective to check the validity of the claim that S-LRP and R-LRP can, indeed, be considered as pure estimates of the duration of sensory and motor processes.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)