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eNeuro. 2017 Jun 7;4(3). pii: ENEURO.0078-17.2017. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0078-17.2017. eCollection 2017 May-Jun.

At What Latency Does the Phase of Brain Oscillations Influence Perception?

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Université de Toulouse Paul Sabatier, 31062 Toulouse cedex 9, France.
Centre de Recherche Cerveau et Cognition, CNRS, UMR 5549, BP 25202, 31052 Toulouse Cedex Toulouse, France.


Recent evidence has shown a rhythmic modulation of perception: prestimulus ongoing electroencephalography (EEG) phase in the θ (4-8 Hz) and α (8-13 Hz) bands has been directly linked with fluctuations in target detection. In fact, the ongoing EEG phase directly reflects cortical excitability: it acts as a gating mechanism for information flow at the neuronal level. Consequently, the key phase modulating perception should be the one present in the brain when the stimulus is actually being processed. Most previous studies, however, reported phase modulation peaking 100 ms or more before target onset. To explain this discrepancy, we first use simulations showing that contamination of spontaneous oscillatory signals by target-evoked ERP and signal filtering (e.g., wavelet) can result in an apparent shift of the peak phase modulation towards earlier latencies, potentially reaching the prestimulus period. We then present a paradigm based on linear systems analysis which can uncover the true latency at which ongoing EEG phase influences perception. After measuring the impulse response function, we use it to reconstruct (rather than record) the brain activity of human observers during white noise sequences. We can then present targets in those sequences, and reliably estimate EEG phase around these targets without any influence of the target-evoked response. We find that in these reconstructed signals, the important phase for perception is that of fronto-occipital ∼6 Hz background oscillations at about 75 ms after target onset. These results confirm the causal influence of phase on perception at the time the stimulus is effectively processed in the brain.


EEG; oscillation; phase modulation

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