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Journal Article

Synchronization between keyboard typing and neural oscillations


Drijvers,  Linda
Communication in Social Interaction, Radboud University Nijmegen, External Organizations;
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, External Organizations;
The Communicative Brain, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Neurobiology of Language Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Duprez, J., Stokkermans, M., Drijvers, L., & Cohen, M. X. (2021). Synchronization between keyboard typing and neural oscillations. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 33(5), 887-901. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01692.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-52E9-6
Rhythmic neural activity synchronizes with certain rhythmic behaviors, such as breathing, sniffing, saccades, and speech. The extent to which neural oscillations synchronize with higher-level and more complex behaviors is largely unknown. Here we investigated electrophysiological synchronization with keyboard typing, which is an omnipresent behavior daily engaged by an uncountably large number of people. Keyboard typing is rhythmic with frequency characteristics roughly the same as neural oscillatory dynamics associated with cognitive control, notably through midfrontal theta (4 -7 Hz) oscillations. We tested the hypothesis that synchronization occurs between typing and midfrontal theta, and breaks down when errors are committed. Thirty healthy participants typed words and sentences on a keyboard without visual feedback, while EEG was recorded. Typing rhythmicity was investigated by inter-keystroke interval analyses and by a kernel density estimation method. We used a multivariate spatial filtering technique to investigate frequency-specific synchronization between typing and neuronal oscillations. Our results demonstrate theta rhythmicity in typing (around 6.5 Hz) through the two different behavioral analyses. Synchronization between typing and neuronal oscillations occurred at frequencies ranging from 4 to 15 Hz, but to a larger extent for lower frequencies. However, peak synchronization frequency was idiosyncratic across subjects, therefore not specific to theta nor to midfrontal regions, and correlated somewhat with peak typing frequency. Errors and trials associated with stronger cognitive control were not associated with changes in synchronization at any frequency. As a whole, this study shows that brain-behavior synchronization does occur during keyboard typing but is not specific to midfrontal theta.