Trial-by-trial co-variation of pre-stimulus EEG alpha power and visuospatial bias reflects a mixture of stochastic and deterministic effects

Eur J Neurosci. 2018 Oct;48(7):2566-2584. doi: 10.1111/ejn.13688. Epub 2017 Sep 28.


Human perception of perithreshold stimuli critically depends on oscillatory EEG activity prior to stimulus onset. However, it remains unclear exactly which aspects of perception are shaped by this pre-stimulus activity and what role stochastic (trial-by-trial) variability plays in driving these relationships. We employed a novel jackknife approach to link single-trial variability in oscillatory activity to psychometric measures from a task that requires judgement of the relative length of two line segments (the landmark task). The results provide evidence that pre-stimulus alpha fluctuations influence perceptual bias. Importantly, a mediation analysis showed that this relationship is partially driven by long-term (deterministic) alpha changes over time, highlighting the need to account for sources of trial-by-trial variability when interpreting EEG predictors of perception. These results provide fundamental insight into the nature of the effects of ongoing oscillatory activity on perception. The jackknife approach we implemented may serve to identify and investigate neural signatures of perceptual relevance in more detail.

Keywords: EEG; attention; jackknife; line bisection; oscillations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Bias
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Waves / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult