Dynamic cortical representations of perceptual filling-in for missing acoustic rhythm
Cervantes Constantino, Francisco
Simon, Jonathan Z
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In the phenomenon of perceptual filling-in, missing sensory information can be reconstructed via interpolation from adjacent contextual cues by what is necessarily an endogenous, not yet well understood, neural process. In this investigation, sound stimuli were chosen to allow observation of fixed cortical oscillations driven by contextual (but missing) sensory input, thus entirely reflecting endogenous neural activity. The stimulus employed was a 5 Hz frequency-modulated tone, with brief masker probes (noise bursts) occasionally added. For half the probes, the rhythmic frequency modulation was moreover removed. Listeners reported whether the tone masked by each probe was perceived as being rhythmic or not. Time-frequency analysis of neural responses obtained by magnetoencephalography (MEG) shows that for maskers without the underlying acoustic rhythm, trials where rhythm was nonetheless perceived show higher evoked sustained rhythmic power than trials for which no rhythm was reported. The results support a model in which perceptual filling-in is aided by differential co-modulations of cortical activity at rates directly relevant to human speech communication. We propose that the presence of rhythmically-modulated neural dynamics predicts the subjective experience of a rhythmically modulated sound in real time, even when the perceptual experience is not supported by corresponding sensory data.