The phase of pre-stimulus alpha oscillations influences the visual perception of stimulus timing

Neuroimage. 2016 Jun;133:53-61. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.02.065. Epub 2016 Feb 27.


This study examined the influence of pre-stimulus alpha phase and attention on whether two visual stimuli occurring closely in time were perceived as simultaneous or asynchronous. The results demonstrated that certain phases of alpha in the period immediately preceding stimulus onset were associated with a higher proportion of stimuli judged to be asynchronous. Furthermore, this effect was shown to occur independently of both visuo-spatial attention and alpha amplitude. The findings are compatible with proposals that alpha phase reflects cyclic shifts in neuronal excitability. Importantly, however, the results further suggest that fluctuations in neuronal excitability can create a periodicity in neuronal transfer that can have functional consequences that are decoupled from changes in alpha amplitude. This study therefore provides evidence that perceptual processes fluctuate periodically although it remains uncertain whether this implies the discrete temporal framing of perception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alpha Rhythm / physiology*
  • Cortical Excitability / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult