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Papers of the Week

2022 Jun 09


The influence of temporal unpredictability on the electrophysiological mechanisms of neural entrainment.


Vilà-Balló A, Marti-Marca A, Torralba Cuello M, Soto-Faraco S, Pozo-Rosich P
Psychophysiology. 2022 Jun 09:e14108.
PMID: 35678104.


Neural entrainment, or the synchronization of endogenous oscillations to exogenous rhythmic events, has been postulated as a powerful mechanism underlying stimulus prediction. Nevertheless, studies that have explored the benefits of neural entrainment on attention, perception, and other cognitive functions have received criticism, which could compromise their theoretical and clinical value. Therefore, the aim of the present study was [1] to confirm the presence of entrainment using a set of pre-established criteria and [2] to establish whether the reported behavioral benefits of entrainment remain when temporal predictability related to target appearance is reduced. To address these points, we adapted a previous neural entrainment paradigm to include: a variable entrainer length and increased target-absent trials, and instructing participants to respond only if they had detected a target, to avoid guessing. Thirty-six right-handed women took part in this study. Our results indicated a significant alignment of neural activity to the external periodicity as well as a persistence of phase alignment beyond the offset of the driving signal. This would appear to indicate that neural entrainment triggers preexisting endogenous oscillations, which cannot simply be explained as a succession of event-related potentials associated with the stimuli, expectation and/or motor response. However, we found no behavioral benefit for targets in-phase with entrainers, which would suggest that the effect of neural entrainment on overt behavior may be more limited than expected. These results help to clarify the mechanistic processes underlying neural entrainment and provide new insights on its applications.