A warning signal followed by an imperative signal generates anticipatory and preparatory activities, which regulate sensory evoked neuronal activities through a top-down centrifugal mechanism. The present study investigated the centrifugal regulation of neuronal responses evoked by a task-relevant somatosensory signal, which triggers a voluntary movement without a warning signal. Eleven healthy adults participated in this study. Electrical stimulation was delivered to the right median nerve at a random interstimulus interval (1.75-2.25 s). The participants were instructed to extend the second digit of the right hand as fast as possible when the electrical stimulus was presented (ipsilateral reaction condition), or extend that of the left hand (contralateral reaction condition). They also executed repetitively extension of the right second digit at a rate of about 0.5 Hz, irrespective of electrical stimulation (movement condition), to count silently the number of stimuli (counting condition). In the control condition, they had no task to perform. The amplitude of short-latency somatosensory evoked potentials, the central P25, frontal N30, and parietal P30, was significantly reduced in both movement and ipsilateral reaction conditions compared to the control condition. The amplitude of long-latency P80 was significantly enhanced only in the ipsilateral reaction condition compared to the control, movement, contralateral reaction, and counting conditions. The long-latency N140 was significantly enhanced in both movement and ipsilateral reaction conditions compared to the control condition. In conclusion, short- and long-latency neuronal activities evoked by task-relevant somatosensory signals were regulated differently through a centrifugal mechanism even when the signal triggered a voluntary movement without a warning signal. The facilitation of activities at a latency of around 80 ms is associated with gain enhancement of the task-relevant signals from the body part involved in the action, whereas that at a latency of around 140 ms is associated with unspecific gain regulation generally induced by voluntary movement. These may be dissociated from the simple effect of directing attention to the stimulation.
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