Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The perceived intensity of sensory stimuli is reduced when these stimuli are caused by the observer's actions. This phenomenon is traditionally explained by forward models of sensory action–outcome, which arise from motor processing. Although these forward models critically predict anticipatory modulation of sensory neural processing, neurophysiological evidence for anticipatory modulation is sparse and has not been linked to perceptual data showing sensory attenuation. By combining a psychophysical task involving contrast discrimination with source-level time–frequency analysis of MEG data, we demonstrate that the amplitude of alpha-oscillations in visual cortex is enhanced before the onset of a visual stimulus when the identity and onset of the stimulus are controlled by participants' motor actions. Critically, this prestimulus enhancement of alpha-amplitude is paralleled by psychophysical judgments of a reduced contrast for this stimulus. We suggest that alpha-oscillations in visual cortex preceding self-generated visual stimulation are a likely neurophysiological signature of motor-induced sensory anticipation and mediate sensory attenuation. We discuss our results in relation to proposals that attribute generic inhibitory functions to alpha-oscillations in prioritizing and gating sensory information via top–down control.