The sense of agency emerges when our voluntary actions produce anticipated or predictable outcomes in the external world. It remains unclear how the sense of control also influences our perception of the external world. The present study examined perceptual processing of self-generated motion versus non-self-generated motion using steady-state visual evoked potentials (SSVEPs). Participants continuously moved their finger on a touchpad to trigger the movements of two shapes (Experiment 1) or two groups of dots (Experiment 2) on a monitor. Degree of control was manipulated by varying the spatial relation between finger movement and stimulus trajectory across conditions. However, the velocity, onset time, and offset time of visual stimuli always corresponded to participants' finger movement. Stimuli flickered at a frequency of either 7.5 Hz or 10 Hz, thus SSVEPs of these frequencies and their harmonics provided a frequency-tagged measurement of perceptual processing. Participants triggered the motion of all stimuli simultaneously, but had greater levels of control over some stimuli than over others. Their task was to detect a brief colour change on the border(s) of one shape (Experiment 1) or of one group of dots (Experiment 2). Although control over shapes/dots was irrelevant to the visual detection task, we found stronger SSVEPs for stimuli that were under a high level of control, compared with the stimuli that were under a low level of control. Our results suggest that the spatial regularity between self-generated movements and visual input boosted the neural responses underlying perceptual processing. Our results support the preactivation account of sensory attenuation, suggesting that perceptual processing of self-generated events is enhanced rather than inhibited.
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