We employed an electroencephalography paradigm manipulating predictive context to dissociate the neural dynamics of anticipatory mechanisms. Subjects either detected random targets or targets preceded by a predictive sequence of three distinct stimuli. The last stimulus in the three-stimulus sequence (decisive stimulus) did not require any motor response but 100% predicted a subsequent target event. We showed that predictive context optimises target processing via the deployment of distinct anticipatory mechanisms at different times of the predictive sequence. Prior to the occurrence of the decisive stimulus, enhanced attentional preparation was manifested by reductions in the alpha oscillatory activities over the visual cortices, resulting in facilitation of processing of the decisive stimulus. Conversely, the subsequent 100% predictable target event did not reveal the deployment of attentional preparation in the visual cortices, but elicited enhanced motor preparation mechanisms, indexed by an increased contingent negative variation and reduced mu oscillatory activities over the motor cortices before movement onset. The present results provide evidence that anticipation operates via different attentional and motor preparation mechanisms by selectively pre-activating task-dependent brain areas as the predictability gradually increases.
© 2012 The Authors. European Journal of Neuroscience © 2012 Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.