October 27, 2020

Propagation and update of auditory perceptual priors through alpha and theta rhythms

To maintain a continuous and coherent percept over time, the brain makes use of past sensory information to anticipate forthcoming stimuli. We recently showed that auditory experience in the immediate past is propagated through ear-specific reverberations, manifested as rhythmic fluctuations of decision bias at alpha frequency. Here, we apply the same time-resolved behavioural method to investigate how perceptual performance changes over time under conditions of high stimulus expectation, and to examine the effect of unexpected events on behaviour. As in our previous study, participants were required to discriminate the ear-of-origin of a brief monaural pure tone embedded in uncorrelated dichotic white noise. We manipulated stimulus expectation by increasing the target probability in one ear to 80%. Consistent with our earlier findings, performance did not remain constant across trials, but varied rhythmically with delay from noise onset. Specifically, decision bias showed a similar oscillation at ~9 Hz that depended on ear congruency between successive targets. This suggests rhythmic communication of auditory perceptual history occurs early and is not readily influenced by top-down expectations. In addition, we report a novel observation specific to infrequent, unexpected stimuli that gave rise to oscillations in accuracy at ~7.6 Hz one trial after the target occurred in the non-anticipated ear. This new behavioural oscillation may reflect a mechanism for updating the sensory representation once a prediction error has been detected.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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