Complementary fMRI and EEG evidence for more efficient neural processing of rhythmic vs. unpredictably timed sounds

Nienke van Atteveldt, Gabriella Musacchia, Elana Zion-Golumbic, Pejman Sehatpour, Daniel C. Javitt, Charles Schroeder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The brain's fascinating ability to adapt its internal neural dynamics to the temporal structure of the sensory environment is becoming increasingly clear. It is thought to be metabolically beneficial to align ongoing oscillatory activity to the relevant inputs in a predictable stream, so that they will enter at optimal processing phases of the spontaneously occurring rhythmic excitability fluctuations. However, some contexts have a more predictable temporal structure than others. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the processing of rhythmic sounds is more efficient than the processing of irregularly timed sounds. To do this, we simultaneously measured functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electro-encephalograms (EEG) while participants detected oddball target sounds in alternating blocks of rhythmic (e.g., with equal inter-stimulus intervals) or random (e.g., with randomly varied inter-stimulus intervals) tone sequences. Behaviorally, participants detected target sounds faster and more accurately when embedded in rhythmic streams. The fMRI response in the auditory cortex was stronger during random compared to random tone sequence processing. Simultaneously recorded N1 responses showed larger peak amplitudes and longer latencies for tones in the random (vs. the rhythmic) streams. These results reveal complementary evidence for more efficient neural and perceptual processing during temporally predictable sensory contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1663
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberOCT
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 van Atteveldt, Musacchia, Zion-Golumbic, Sehatpour, Javitt and Schroeder.


FundersFunder number
Seventh Framework Programme221187


    • Auditory cortex
    • EEG
    • FMRI
    • Rhythm
    • Sound processing
    • Temporal context


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