Visual cortex responses reflect temporal structure of continuous quasi-rhythmic sensory stimulation

Article English OPEN
Keitel, Christian ; Thut, Gregor ; Gross, Joachim (2017)
  • Publisher: Academic Press
  • Journal: Neuroimage (issn: 1053-8119, vol: 146, pp: 58-70)
  • Related identifiers: pmc: PMC5312821, doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.11.043
  • Subject: Frequency tagging | Entrainment | Brain-computer interface | Brain oscillation | Cognitive Neuroscience | Non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) | Neurology | Article | Steady-state response (SSR)
    mesheuropmc: genetic structures

Neural processing of dynamic continuous visual input, and cognitive influences thereon, are frequently studied in paradigms employing strictly rhythmic stimulation. However, the temporal structure of natural stimuli is hardly ever fully rhythmic but possesses certain spectral bandwidths (e.g. lip movements in speech, gestures). Examining periodic brain responses elicited by strictly rhythmic stimulation might thus represent ideal, yet isolated cases. Here, we tested how the visual system reflects quasi-rhythmic stimulation with frequencies continuously varying within ranges of classical theta (4–7 Hz), alpha (8–13 Hz) and beta bands (14–20 Hz) using EEG. Our findings substantiate a systematic and sustained neural phase-locking to stimulation in all three frequency ranges. Further, we found that allocation of spatial attention enhances EEG-stimulus locking to theta- and alpha-band stimulation. Our results bridge recent findings regarding phase locking (“entrainment”) to quasi-rhythmic visual input and “frequency-tagging” experiments employing strictly rhythmic stimulation. We propose that sustained EEG-stimulus locking can be considered as a continuous neural signature of processing dynamic sensory input in early visual cortices. Accordingly, EEG-stimulus locking serves to trace the temporal evolution of rhythmic as well as quasi-rhythmic visual input and is subject to attentional bias.
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