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Noise in the brain: Transcranial random noise stimulation and perceptual noise act on a stochastic resonance-like mechanism.

  • Battaglini, Luca1, 2, 3
  • Casco, Clara1, 2
  • Fertonani, Anna4
  • Miniussi, Carlo5
  • Di Ponzio, Michele1, 6
  • Vicovaro, Michele1
  • 1 Department of General Psychology, University of Padua, Padova, Italy. , (Italy)
  • 2 Neuro.Vis.U.S. Laboratory, University of Padova, Padua, Italy. , (Italy)
  • 3 Centro di Ateneo dei Servizi Clinici Universitari Psicologici (SCUP), University of Padova, Padova, Italy. , (Italy)
  • 4 Cognitive Neuroscience Section, IRCCS Istituto Centro San Giovanni di Dio Fatebenefratelli, Brescia, Italy. , (Italy)
  • 5 Center for Mind/Brain Sciences-CIMeC, University of Trento, Rovereto, Trentino, Italy. , (Italy)
  • 6 Department of Psychology and Cognitive Studies, Institute of Neurosciences, Florence, Italy. , (Italy)
Published Article
European Journal of Neuroscience
Wiley (Blackwell Publishing)
Publication Date
Jun 01, 2023
DOI: 10.1111/ejn.15965
PMID: 36922400


Stochastic resonance (SR) is a phenomenon in which a certain amount of random noise added to a weak subthreshold stimulus can enhance signal detectability. It is unknown how external noise interacts with neural noise in producing an SR-like phenomenon and whether this interaction results in a modulation of either network efficiency or the efficiency of single neurons. Using random dot motion stimuli and noninvasive brain stimulation, we attempted to unveil the specific mechanism of action of the SR-like phenomenon in motion perception, if present. We aimed to determine whether signal integration efficiency changes with external noise (random dot numerosity) and how electrical transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS) can affect the peak performance. The participants performed a coherent motion detection task in which the random dot numerosity varied, whereas the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) remained constant. We applied placebo or tRNS with an amplitude of either 1 or 2 mA during task execution. We found peaks in participants' performance both in the case of placebo stimulation and in the case of 1-mA tRNS. In the latter case (i.e., with an additional noise source), the peak emerged at lower random dot numerosity levels than when no additional noise was added (placebo). No clear peak was observed with 2-mA tRNS. An equivalent noise (EN) analysis confirmed that SR arises from a modulation of the network efficiency underlying motion signal integration. These results indicate a joint contribution of external and neural noise (modulated by tRNS) in eliciting an SR-like phenomenon. © 2023 The Authors. European Journal of Neuroscience published by Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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