Temporal expectation and attention jointly modulate auditory oscillatory activity in the beta band.
Todorovic A., Schoffelen JM., van Ede F., Maris E., de Lange FP.
The neural response to a stimulus is influenced by endogenous factors such as expectation and attention. Current research suggests that expectation and attention exert their effects in opposite directions, where expectation decreases neural activity in sensory areas, while attention increases it. However, expectation and attention are usually studied either in isolation or confounded with each other. A recent study suggests that expectation and attention may act jointly on sensory processing, by increasing the neural response to expected events when they are attended, but decreasing it when they are unattended. Here we test this hypothesis in an auditory temporal cueing paradigm using magnetoencephalography in humans. In our study participants attended to, or away from, tones that could arrive at expected or unexpected moments. We found a decrease in auditory beta band synchrony to expected (versus unexpected) tones if they were unattended, but no difference if they were attended. Modulations in beta power were already evident prior to the expected onset times of the tones. These findings suggest that expectation and attention jointly modulate sensory processing.