Local cortical desynchronization and pupil-linked arousal differentially shape brain states for optimal sensory performance

Elife. 2019 Dec 10;8:e51501. doi: 10.7554/eLife.51501.


Instantaneous brain states have consequences for our sensation, perception, and behaviour. Fluctuations in arousal and neural desynchronization likely pose perceptually relevant states. However, their relationship and their relative impact on perception is unclear. We here show that, at the single-trial level in humans, local desynchronization in sensory cortex (expressed as time-series entropy) versus pupil-linked arousal differentially impact perceptual processing. While we recorded electroencephalography (EEG) and pupillometry data, stimuli of a demanding auditory discrimination task were presented into states of high or low desynchronization of auditory cortex via a real-time closed-loop setup. Desynchronization and arousal distinctly influenced stimulus-evoked activity and shaped behaviour displaying an inverted u-shaped relationship: States of intermediate desynchronization elicited minimal response bias and fastest responses, while states of intermediate arousal gave rise to highest response sensitivity. Our results speak to a model in which independent states of local desynchronization and global arousal jointly optimise sensory processing and performance.

Keywords: cognitive neuroscience; human; neuroscience; perception; sensory processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Arousal*
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cortical Synchronization*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pupil / physiology*
  • Young Adult