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Central cancellation of self-produced tickle sensation


A self-produced tactile stimulus is perceived as less ticklish than the same stimulus generated externally. We used fMRI to examine neural responses when subjects experienced a tactile stimulus that was either self-produced or externally produced. More activity was found in somatosensory cortex when the stimulus was externally produced. In the cerebellum, less activity was associated with a movement that generated a tactile stimulus than with a movement that did not. This difference suggests that the cerebellum is involved in predicting the specific sensory consequences of movements, providing the signal that is used to cancel the sensory response to self-generated stimulation.

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We thank Richard Perry and Richard Frackowiak for comments, and the radiographers at the Wellcome Department for Cognitive Neurology for their help. This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust. S.-J.B. is supported by a Wellcome Trust four-year Ph.D. Programme in Neuroscience at University College London.

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Correspondence to Sarah-J. Blakemore.

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Figure 1: Diagram of experimental set-up.
Figure 2: Areas of activation in the main effects of movement and tactile stimuli.
Figure 3
Figure 4: Significantly decreased activity (p < 0.05, corrected for multiple comparisons) in bilateral secondary somatosensory cortex associated with the interaction between the effects of self-generated movement and tactile stimulation.
Figure 5: Significantly decreased activity (p < 0.05, corrected for multiple comparisons) in right anterior cerebellar cortex associated with the interaction between the effects of self-generated movement and tactile stimulation.
Figure 6: Significantly decreased activity (p < 0.05 corrected for multiple comparisons) in anterior cingulate cortex associated with the interaction between the effects of self-generated movement and tactile stimulation.