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Prior expectations of motion direction modulate early sensory processing

Aitken, F; Turner, G; Kok, P; (2020) Prior expectations of motion direction modulate early sensory processing. The Journal of Neuroscience 10.1523/jneurosci.0537-20.2020. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Perception is a process of inference, integrating sensory inputs with prior expectations. However, little is known regarding the temporal dynamics of this integration. It has been proposed that expectation plays a role early in the perceptual process, biasing sensory processing. Alternatively, others suggest that expectations are integrated only at later, post-perceptual decision-making stages. The current study aimed to dissociate between these hypotheses. We exposed human participants (male and female) to auditory cues predicting the likely direction of upcoming moving dot patterns, while recording neural activity using magnetoencephalography (MEG). Participants’ reports of the moving dot directions were biased towards the direction predicted by the cues. To investigate when expectations affected sensory representations, we used inverted encoding models to decode the direction represented in early sensory signals. Strikingly, the cues modulated the direction represented in the MEG signal as early as 150 ms after visual stimulus onset. While this may not reflect a modulation of the initial feedforward sweep, it does reveal a modulation of early sensory representations. Exploratory analyses showed that the neural modulation was related to perceptual expectation effects: participants with a stronger perceptual bias towards the predicted direction also revealed a stronger reflection of the predicted direction in the MEG signal. For participants with this perceptual bias, a correlation between decoded and perceived direction already emerged prior to visual stimulus onset, suggesting that the pre-stimulus state of the visual cortex influences sensory processing. Together, these results suggest that expectations play an integral role in the neural computations underlying perception.

Type: Article
Title: Prior expectations of motion direction modulate early sensory processing
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1523/jneurosci.0537-20.2020
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1523/jneurosci.0537-20.2020
Language: English
Additional information: This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium provided that the original work is properly attributed.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10105084
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