A study on alpha brain waves and visual processing that had limited findings

This 2015 Wisconsin human study found:

“Forming predictions about when a stimulus will appear can bias the phase of ongoing alpha-band oscillations toward an optimal phase for visual processing, and may thus serve as a mechanism for the top-down control of visual processing guided by temporal predictions.”

The researchers measured delta (1-4 Hz), theta (4-7 Hz), alpha (9-13 Hz), and low beta (15-20 Hz) brain waves. Their findings applied only to the alpha band in their experimental tasks, which excluded emotional content.

Brain waves studies such as Are hippocampal place cells controlled by theta brain waves from grid cells? and Research that identifies the source of generating gamma brain waves established different experimental conditions that elicited brain waves in non-alpha frequency bands. Such studies may have been relevant to further explain this study’s negative findings.

Visual perception studies such as We are attuned to perceive what our brains predict will be rewarding and Our long-term memory usually selects what we pay closer visual attention to provided insight into possible causes for the observed effects. It may have provided additional findings if the researchers of this study were also interested in causal factors that affected visual processing.

Other studies on visual perception such as The amygdala is where we integrate our perception of human facial emotion provided reasons to not exclude emotional content in brain studies. The current study’s researchers claimed that they provided insights relevant to neurological disorders by stating:

“Because forming the appropriate sensory predictions can have a large impact on our visual experiences and visually guided behaviors, a mechanism thought to be disrupted in certain neurological conditions like autism and schizophrenia, an understanding of the neural basis of these predictions is critical.”

However, I didn’t see that the researchers provided such an understanding since their experimental designs excluded emotional content. I wonder what the reviewer saw that justified this Significance section statement.

http://www.pnas.org/content/112/27/8439.full “Top-down control of the phase of alpha-band oscillations as a mechanism for temporal prediction”


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