Many studies speak in favor of a rhythmic mode of listening, by which the encoding of acoustic information is structured by rhythmic neural processes at the time scale of about 1 to 4 Hz. Indeed, psychophysical data suggest that humans sample acoustic information in extended soundscapes not uniformly, but weigh the evidence at different moments for their perceptual decision at the time scale of about 2 Hz. We here test the critical prediction that such rhythmic perceptual sampling is directly related to the state of ongoing brain activity prior to the stimulus. Human participants judged the direction of frequency sweeps in 1.2 s long soundscapes while their EEG was recorded. Computing the perceptual weights attributed to different epochs within these soundscapes contingent on the phase or power of pre-stimulus oscillatory EEG activity revealed a direct link between the 4Hz EEG phase and power prior to the stimulus and the phase of the rhythmic component of these perceptual weights. Hence, the temporal pattern by which the acoustic information is sampled over time for behavior is directly related to pre-stimulus brain activity in the delta/theta band. These results close a gap in the mechanistic picture linking ongoing delta band activity with their role in shaping the segmentation and perceptual influence of subsequent acoustic information.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience