Somatosensory alpha oscillations gate perceptual learning efficiency

Nat Commun. 2019 Jan 16;10(1):263. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-08012-0.


Cognition and perception are closely coupled to alpha power, but whether there is a link between alpha power and perceptual learning efficacy is unknown. Here we show that somatosensory alpha power can be successfully up- and down-regulated with short-term neurofeedback training, which in turn controls subsequent tactile perceptual learning. We find that neurofeedback-induced increases in alpha power lead to enhanced learning, whereas reductions in alpha power impede learning. As a consequence, interindividual learning variability is substantially reduced. No comparable impact is observed for oscillatory power in theta, beta, and lower gamma frequency bands. Our results demonstrate that high pre-learning alpha levels are a requirement for reaching high learning efficiency. These data provide further evidence that alpha oscillations shape the functional architecture of the brain network by gating neural resources and thereby modulating levels of preparedness for upcoming processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alpha Rhythm / physiology*
  • Biological Variation, Population / physiology
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neurofeedback / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Touch Perception / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology
  • Young Adult