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Invisible visual stimuli elicit increases in alpha-band power

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Bareither,  Isabelle
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
The MindBrain Institute, Humboldt- Universität zu Berlin, Germany;

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Villringer,  Arno
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
The MindBrain Institute, Humboldt- Universität zu Berlin, Germany;

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Citation

Bareither, I., Chaumon, M., Bernasconi, F., Villringer, A., & Busch, N. A. (2014). Invisible visual stimuli elicit increases in alpha-band power. Journal of Neurophysiology, 112(5), 1082-1090. doi:10.1152/jn.00550.2013.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0024-432A-2
Abstract
The cerebral cortex responds to stimuli of a wide range of intensities. Previous studies have demonstrated that undetectably weak somatosensory stimuli cause a functional deactivation or inhibition in somatosensory cortex. In the present study, we tested whether invisible visual stimuli lead to similar responses, indicated by an increase in EEG alpha-band power—an index of cortical excitability. We presented subliminal and supraliminal visual stimuli after estimating each participant's detection threshold. Stimuli consisted of peripherally presented small circular patches that differed in their contrast to a background consisting of a random white noise pattern. We demonstrate that subliminal and supraliminal stimuli each elicit specific neuronal response patterns. Supraliminal stimuli evoked an early, strongly phase-locked lower-frequency response representing the evoked potential and induced a decrease in alpha-band power from 400 ms on. By contrast, subliminal visual stimuli induced an increase of non-phase-locked power around 300 ms that was maximal within the alpha-band. This response might be due to an inhibitory mechanism, which reduces spurious visual activation that is unlikely to result from external stimuli.