Event Abstract

Current arousal or sensitisation: which determines electrodermal dishabituation in short and long ISI tasks?

  • 1 University of Wollongong, School of Psychology, Australia

Background: Habituation is a simple form of learning where the response to a stimulus decreases with repeated presentations. It is separate from other decremental processes, such as fatigue or refractory periods, as a change in stimulus (deviant) can evoke an enhanced response (response recovery). Dishabituation is an observable increase in response magnitude to a habituated stimulus after an interpolated deviant. Two prominent theories on habituation outline different mechanisms of dishabituation: Dual-process theory attributes dishabituation to sensitisation, a change in state arousal; alternatively, Sokolov argued that dishabituation is nothing more than an interruption to the habituation process. This study tested these differing predictions in the context of the Orienting Reflex (OR); an attentional mechanism that directs attention towards changes in the environment.
Methods: Participants completed an auditory dishabituation task with either a short (5-7 s) or long (13-15 s) stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) while their electrodermal activity was recorded. In both tasks, the stimulus sequence was 10 standards, 1 deviant, 2-4 standards; counterbalanced innocuous tones. Two counterbalanced conditions were presented within subjects: indifferent (no task) and significant (silently count all stimuli).
Results: In both tasks and conditions, skin conductance responses (SCRs) and pre-stimulus skin conductance levels (SCLs) showed response decrement over trials 1-10; SCRs evidenced response recovery and dishabituation; and post-deviant sensitisation was apparent for SCLs. In the long task, dishabituation was independent of sensitisation for both conditions, but in the short task, the research question was confounded by the incomplete resolution of the phasic response to the deviant for significant stimuli. Across both tasks and conditions, the SCR was dependent on the current arousal level.
Discussion: The results from our two tasks emphasise the importance of using a long enough SOA to allow complete response resolution in electrodermal tasks. We showed that sensitisation, the change in state after the interpolated deviant, is a process separate from resolution of the deviant phasic response, arguing against the mechanism of dual-process theory. We also found that arousal consistently predicted the OR, including the dishabituation response, suggesting that dishabituation is a disruption of the habituation process, as Sokolov originally suggested.

Keywords: dishabituation, orienting reflex, Counting, Electrodermal activity, habituation, Learning

Conference: ACNS-2013 Australasian Cognitive Neuroscience Society Conference, Clayton, Melbourne, Australia, 28 Nov - 1 Dec, 2013.

Presentation Type: Poster

Topic: Other

Citation: Steiner GZ and Barry RJ (2013). Current arousal or sensitisation: which determines electrodermal dishabituation in short and long ISI tasks?. Conference Abstract: ACNS-2013 Australasian Cognitive Neuroscience Society Conference. doi: 10.3389/conf.fnhum.2013.212.00143

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Received: 11 Sep 2013; Published Online: 25 Nov 2013.

* Correspondence: Miss. Genevieve Z Steiner, University of Wollongong, School of Psychology, Wollongong, NSW, 2522, Australia, G.Steiner@westernsydney.edu.au