January 20, 2021

No behavioral evidence for rhythmic facilitation of perceptual discrimination

It has been hypothesized that internal oscillations can synchronize (i.e., entrain) to external environmental rhythms, thereby facilitating perception and behavior. To date, evidence for the link between the phase of neural oscillations and behavior has been scarce and contradictory; moreover, it remains an open question whether the brain can use this tentative mechanism for active temporal prediction. In our present study, we conducted a series of auditory pitch discrimination tasks with 181 healthy participants in an effort to shed light on the proposed behavioral benefits of rhythmic cueing and entrainment. In the three versions of our task, we observed no perceptual benefit of purported entrainment: targets occurring in-phase with a rhythmic cue provided no perceptual benefits in terms of discrimination accuracy or reaction time when compared with targets occurring out-of-phase or targets occurring randomly, nor did we find performance differences for targets preceded by rhythmic vs. random cues. However, we found a surprising effect of cueing frequency on reaction time, in which participants showed faster responses to cue rhythms presented at higher frequencies. We therefore provide no evidence of entrainment, but instead a tentative effect of covert active sensing in which a faster external rhythm leads to a faster communication rate between motor and sensory cortices, allowing for sensory inputs to be sampled earlier in time.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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