Encoding of event timing in the phase of neural oscillations

Neuroimage. 2014 May 15;92:274-84. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.02.010. Epub 2014 Feb 13.


Time perception is a critical component of conscious experience. To be in synchrony with the environment, the brain must deal not only with differences in the speed of light and sound but also with its computational and neural transmission delays. Here, we asked whether the brain could actively compensate for temporal delays by changing its processing time. Specifically, can changes in neural timing or in the phase of neural oscillation index perceived timing? For this, a lag-adaptation paradigm was used to manipulate participants' perceived audiovisual (AV) simultaneity of events while they were recorded with magnetoencephalography (MEG). Desynchronized AV stimuli were presented rhythmically to elicit a robust 1 Hz frequency-tagging of auditory and visual cortical responses. As participants' perception of AV simultaneity shifted, systematic changes in the phase of entrained neural oscillations were observed. This suggests that neural entrainment is not a passive response and that the entrained neural oscillation shifts in time. Crucially, our results indicate that shifts in neural timing in auditory cortices linearly map participants' perceived AV simultaneity. To our knowledge, these results provide the first mechanistic evidence for active neural compensation in the encoding of sensory event timing in support of the emergence of time awareness.

Keywords: Internal clock; MEG; Oscillatory entrainment; Simultaneity; Temporal order.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Feedback, Physiological / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Physical Stimulation / methods
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*