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Temporal expectations have been shown to enhance visual analysis of task-relevant events, especially when these are coupled with spatial expectations. Oscillatory brain activity, particularly in the alpha band, has been implicated in regulating excitability in visual areas as a function of anticipatory spatial attention. Here we asked whether temporal expectations derived from regular, rhythmic events can modulate ongoing oscillatory alpha-band activity, so that the changes in cortical excitability are focused over the time intervals at which target events are expected. The task we used involved making a perceptual discrimination about a small target stimulus that reappeared from "behind" a peripheral occluding band. Temporal expectations were manipulated by the regular, rhythmic versus irregular, arrhythmic approach of the stimulus toward the occluding band. Alpha-band activity was measured during the occlusion period, in which no stimulus was presented, but target reappearance was anticipated in conditions of high versus low temporal expectation. Time-frequency analysis showed that the amplitude of alpha-desynchronization followed the time course of temporal expectations. Alpha desynchronization increased rhythmically, peaking just before the expected reappearance of target times. Analysis of the event-related potentials evoked by the subsequent target stimuli showed enhancement of processing at both visual and motor stages. Our findings support a role for oscillations in regulating cortical excitability and suggest a plausible mechanism for biasing perception and action by temporal expectations.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurosci

Publication Date





14076 - 14084


Adult, Alpha Rhythm, Anticipation, Psychological, Attention, Female, Humans, Male, Photic Stimulation, Psychomotor Performance, Reaction Time, Time Perception, Young Adult