Temporal expectations and neural amplitude fluctuations in auditory cortex interactively influence perception

Björn Herrmann, Molly J Henry, Saskia Haegens, Jonas Obleser
NeuroImage 2016 January 1, 124 (Pt A): 487-497
Alignment of neural oscillations with temporally regular input allows listeners to generate temporal expectations. However, it remains unclear how behavior is governed in the context of temporal variability: What role do temporal expectations play, and how do they interact with the strength of neural oscillatory activity? Here, human participants detected near-threshold targets in temporally variable acoustic sequences. Temporal expectation strength was estimated using an oscillator model and pre-target neural amplitudes in auditory cortex were extracted from magnetoencephalography signals. Temporal expectations modulated target-detection performance, however, only when neural delta-band amplitudes were large. Thus, slow neural oscillations act to gate influences of temporal expectation on perception. Furthermore, slow amplitude fluctuations governed linear and quadratic influences of auditory alpha-band activity on performance. By fusing a model of temporal expectation with neural oscillatory dynamics, the current findings show that human perception in temporally variable contexts relies on complex interactions between multiple neural frequency bands.

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