When synchronizing to rhythms is not a good thing: Modulations of preparatory and post-target neural activity when shifting attention away from on-beat times of a distracting rhythm

Assaf Breska*, Leon Y. Deouell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations

Abstract

Environmental rhythms potently drive predictive resource allocation in time, typically leading to perceptual and motor benefits for on-beat, relative to off-beat, times, even if the rhythmic stream is not intentionally used. In two human EEG experiments, we investigated the behavioral and electrophysiological expressions of using rhythms to direct resources away from on-beat times. This allowed us to distinguish goal-directed attention from the automatic capture of attention by rhythms. The following three conditions were compared: (1) a rhythmic stream with targets appearing frequently at a fixed off-beat position; (2) a rhythmic stream with targets appearing frequently at on-beat times; and (3) a nonrhythmic stream with matched target intervals. Shifting resources away from on-beat times was expressed in the slowing of responses to on-beat targets, but not in the facilitation of off-beat targets. The shifting of resources was accompanied by anticipatory adjustment of the contingent negative variation (CNV) buildup toward the expected off-beat time. In the second experiment, off-beat times were jittered, resulting in a similar CNV adjustment and also in preparatory amplitude reduction of beta-band activity. Thus, the CNV and beta activity track the relevance of time points and not the rhythm, given sufficient incentive. Furthermore, the effects of task relevance (appearing in a task-relevant vs irrelevant time) and rhythm (appearing on beat vs off beat) had additive behavioral effects and also dissociable neural manifestations in target-evoked activity: rhythm affected the target response as early as the P1 component, while relevance affected only the later N2 and P3. Thus, these two factors operate by distinct mechanisms.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)7154-7166
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Volume36
Issue number27
DOIs
StatePublished - 6 Jul 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 the authors.

Keywords

  • Cognitive control
  • EEG
  • Oscillations
  • Rhythms
  • Temporal predictions

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