Prestimulus alpha power predicts fidelity of sensory encoding in perceptual decision making

Pre-stimulus α power has been shown to correlate with the behavioral accuracy of perceptual decisions. In most cases, these correlations have been observed by comparing α power for different behavioral outcomes (e.g. correct vs incorrect trials). In this paper we investigate such covariation within the context of behaviorally-latent fluctuations in task-relevant post-stimulus neural activity. Specially we consider variations of pre-stimulus α power with post-stimulus EEG components in a two alternative forced choice visual discrimination task. EEG components, discriminative of stimulus class, are identified using a linear multivariate classifier and only the variability of the components for correct trials (regardless of stimulus class, and for nominally identical stimuli) are correlated with the corresponding pre-stimulus α power. We find a significant relationship between the mean and variance of the pre-stimulus α power and the variation of the trial-to-trial magnitude of an early post-stimulus EEG component. This relationship is not seen for a later EEG component that is also discriminative of stimulus class and which has been previously linked to the quality of evidence driving the decision process. Our results suggest that early perceptual representations, rather than temporally later neural correlates of the perceptual decision, are modulated by pre-stimulus state.

Accepted 15 February 2014
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