September 2018, Vol. 30, No. 9, Pages 2348-2383
© 2018 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
A New Foreperiod Effect on Intertrial Phase Coherence. Part I: Existence and Behavioral Relevance
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This letter makes scientific and methodological contributions. Scientifically, it demonstrates a new and behaviorally relevant effect of temporal expectation on the phase coherence of the electroencephalogram (EEG). Methodologically, it introduces novel methods to characterize EEG recordings at the single-trial level. Expecting events in time can lead to more efficient behavior. A remarkable finding in the study of temporal expectation is the foreperiod effect on reaction time, that is, the influence on reaction time of the delay between a warning signal and a succeeding imperative stimulus to which subjects are instructed to respond as quickly as possible. Here we study a new foreperiod effect in an audiovisual attention-shifting oddball task in which attention-shift cues directed the attention of subjects to impendent deviant stimuli of a given modality and therefore acted as warning signals for these deviants. Standard stimuli, to which subjects did not respond, were interspersed between warning signals and deviants. We hypothesized that foreperiod durations modulated intertrial phase coherence (ITPC, the degree of phase alignment across multiple trials) evoked by behaviorally irrelevant standards and that these modulations are behaviorally meaningful. Using averaged data, we first observed that ITPC evoked by standards closer to the warning signal was significantly different from that evoked by standards further away from it, establishing a new foreperiod effect on ITPC evoked by standards. We call this effect the standard foreperiod (SFP) effect on ITPC. We reasoned that if the SFP influences ITPC evoked by standards, it should be possible to decode the former from the latter on a trial-by-trial basis. We were able to do so showing that this effect can be observed in single trials. We demonstrated the behavioral relevance of the SFP effect on ITPC by showing significant correlations between its strength and subjects' behavioral performance.