May 18, 2021

Postdiction: when temporal regularity drives space perception through pre-stimulus alpha oscillations

During postdiction, the last stimulus of a sequence changes the perception of the preceding ones: in the rabbit illusion, a three-flash series presented regularly in time, but not in space, is – illusory – perceived as spatially regular. Such a reorganization of (spatial) perception could be driven by internal priors, e.g. favoring slow motion for the rabbit illusion. Although postdiction is a ubiquitous phenomenon, its neural underpinnings remain poorly understood. Here, we focused on the role of priors during postdiction and hypothesized that these could be reflected by alpha oscillations (8-12Hz), previously observed to correlate with idiosyncratic biases. We presented human participants with ambiguous visual stimuli that elicited the rabbit illusion on about half the trials, allowing us to contrast MEG-EEG brain responses to the same physical events causing distinct percepts. Given that a strong prior will increase the overall probability of perceiving the illusion, we used the percentage of perceived illusion as a proxy for an individual’s prior. We found that high fronto-parietal alpha power was associated with perceiving the sequence according to individual biases: participants with high susceptibility to the illusion would report the illusion, while participants with low susceptibility would report the veridical sequence. Additionally, we found that pre-stimulus alpha phase in occipital and frontal areas dissociated illusory from non-illusory trials. These results point to a dissociated relation of the power and timing of alpha band activity to illusory perception, with power reflecting prior expectations and phase influencing behavioral performance, potentially due to the modulation of sensory uncertainty.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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