Rhythmic Temporal Expectation Boosts Neural Activity by Increasing Neural Gain

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journal

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9806-9817
Journal / PublicationJournal of Neuroscience
Volume39
Issue number49
Online published29 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2019

Abstract

Temporal orienting improves sensory processing, akin to other top-down biases. However, it is unknown whether these improvements reflect increased neural gain to any stimuli presented at expected time points, or specific tuning to task-relevant stimulus aspects. Furthermore, while other top-down biases are selective, the extent of trade-offs across time is less well characterized. Here, we tested whether gain and/or tuning of auditory frequency processing in humans is modulated by rhythmic temporal expectations, and whether these modulations are specific to time points relevant for task performance. Healthy participants (N = 23) of either sex performed an auditory discrimination task while their brain activity was measured using magnetoencephalography/electroencephalography (M/EEG). Acoustic stimulation consisted of sequences of brief distractors interspersed with targets, presented in a rhythmic or jittered way. Target rhythmicity not only improved behavioral discrimination accuracy and M/EEG-based decoding of targets, but also of irrelevant distractors preceding these targets. To explain this finding in terms of increased sensitivity and/or sharpened tuning to auditory frequency, we estimated tuning curves based on M/EEG decoding results, with separate parameters describing gain and sharpness. The effect of rhythmic expectation on distractor decoding was linked to gain increase only, suggesting increased neural sensitivity to any stimuli presented at relevant time points. 
SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Being able to predict when an event may happen can improve perception and action related to this event, likely due to the alignment of neural activity to the temporal structure of stimulus streams. However, it is unclear whether rhythmic increases in neural sensitivity are specific to task-relevant targets, and whether they competitively impair stimulus processing at unexpected time points. By combining magnetoencephalography and encephalographic recordings, neural decoding of auditory stimulus features, and modeling, we found that rhythmic expectation improved neural decoding of both relevant targets and irrelevant distractors presented and expected time points, but did not competitively impair stimulus processing at unexpected time points. Using a quantitative model, these results were linked to nonspecific neural gain increases due to rhythmic expectation.

Research Area(s)

  • auditory processing, magnetoencephalography, multivariate decoding, rhythm processing, sensory prediction, temporal orienting

Citation Format(s)

Rhythmic Temporal Expectation Boosts Neural Activity by Increasing Neural Gain. / Auksztulewicz, Ryszard; Myers, Nicholas E.; Schnupp, Jan W.; Nobre, Anna C.

In: Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 39, No. 49, 04.12.2019, p. 9806-9817.

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journal