Cortical oscillations and sensory predictions

I’ve recently crossed paths with this review on cortical oscillations and sensory predictions:

Trends Cog Science, 2012 Jul; 16(7):390-8. DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2012.05.003.

Cortical Oscillations and Sensory Predictions

Luc H ArnalAnne-Lise Giraud

Abstract. Many theories of perception are anchored in the central notion that the brain continuously updates an internal model of the world to infer the probable causes of sensory events. In this framework, the brain needs not only to predict the causes of sensory input, but also when they are most likely to happen. In this article, we review the neurophysiological bases of sensory predictions of “what’ (predictive coding) and ‘when’ (predictive timing), with an emphasis on low-level oscillatory mechanisms. We argue that neural rhythms offer distinct and adapted computational solutions to predicting ‘what’ is going to happen in the sensory environment and ‘when’.

I would like to highlight a few ideas from the paper:

  • The authors integrate predictive coding and timing into a common framework relying on cortical oscillations.
  • There is a popular hypothesis that the brain hosts a representation of the world from which it predicts ‘what’ hapens in the sensory environment. That is commonly known as ‘predictive coding’.
  • Predictive coding uses Bayesian framework and imply that predictions are internal representations of ‘what’ causes sensory events.
  • Slow cortical oscillations can tune brain activity to rhythmic events and optimize signal selection.
  • The predictive alignment of delta-theta oscillations in an ideal excitability phase speeds up stimulus detection.
  • Predictive timing by oscillatory entrainment presumably suffices to account for the delay with which one adapts to speaker rates, as well as for the accuracy of such adaptation.
  • Delta-theta oscillations are involved in setting temoral windows of sensory integration due to entrainment, whereas beta oscillations are involved in rhytmic modulation of sensory sampling and predictions.


Feature image from Pexels – C0 license.

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