Spontaneous alpha-band amplitude predicts subjective visibility but not discrimination accuracy during high-level perception

Conscious Cogn. 2022 Jul;102:103337. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2022.103337. Epub 2022 May 4.


Near-threshold perception is a paradigm case of awareness diverging from reality - the perception of an unchanging stimulus can vacillate from undetected to clearly perceived. The amplitude of low-frequency brain oscillations - particularly in the alpha-band (8-13 Hz) - has emerged as a reliable predictor of trial-to-trial variability in perceptual decisions based on simple, low-level stimuli. Here, we addressed the question of how spontaneous oscillatory amplitude impacts subjective and objective aspects of perception using high-level visual stimuli. Human observers completed a near-threshold face/house discrimination task with subjective visibility ratings while electroencephalograms (EEG) were recorded. Using single-trial multiple regression analysis, we found that spontaneous fluctuations in prestimulus alpha-band amplitude were negatively related to visibility judgments but did not predict trial-by-trial accuracy. These results extend previous findings that indicate that strong prestimulus alpha diminishes subjective perception without affecting the accuracy or sensitivity (d') of perceptual decisions into the domain of high-level perception.

Keywords: Alpha rhythm; High-level perception; Neural oscillation; Signal Detection Theory; Subjective report.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alpha Rhythm*
  • Brain
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electroencephalography* / methods
  • Humans
  • Perception
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Visual Perception