We have earlier found that voluntary attention to weak auditory stimuli induces inhibition of respiration, heart rate, and electromyographic (EMG) activity of masticatory and lower facial muscles and that these responses lower the auditory threshold for low-frequency sounds. In the current study, we examined whether this inhibitory response pattern also occurs during involuntary orienting to novel, nonsignal sounds. Environmental sounds of low intensity were presented unexpectedly during the performance of a reading task. Orienting responses (ORs) were elicited as indicated by heart rate deceleration and skin conductance responses. Inhibitory respiratory and pericranial EMG responses appeared to be intrinsic components of the OR. Together with the autonomic responses, they habituated when a nonsignal auditory stimulus was repeatedly presented. Our results also suggest that eye and pinna movements occurred toward the sound source. The results of the current study are consistent with the hypothesis of Sokolov (1963) that the primary function of the OR is enhancement of sensory sensitivity.
|Publication status||Published - 2002|