Habituation of the eyeblink response in humans with stimuli presented in a sequence of incremental intensity
In an experiment we examined whether the repeated presentation of tones of gradually increasing intensities produces greater decrement in the eyeblink reflex response in humans than the repetition of tones of constant intensities. Two groups of participants matched for their initial level of response were exposed to 110 tones of 100-ms duration. For the participants in the incremental group, the tones increased from 60- to 90- dB in 3-dB steps, whereas participants in the constant group received the tones at a fixed 90-dB intensity. The results indicated that the level of response in the last block of 10 trials, in which both groups received 90-dB tones, was significantly lower in the incremental group than in the constant group. These findings support the data presented by Davis and Wagner (7) with the acoustic response in rats, but differ from several reports with autonomic responses in humans, where the advantage of the incremental condition has not been observed unambiguously. The discussion analyzes theoretical approaches to this phenomenon and the possible involvement of separate neural circuits.