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Front. Hum. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00159

Long-range temporal correlations in alpha oscillations stabilize perception of ambiguous visual stimuli

  • 1Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi Onlus (IRCCS), Italy
  • 2Integrative Neurophysiology, CNCR, Amsterdam Neuroscience, VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 3NBT Analytics BV, Netherlands

Ongoing brain dynamics have been proposed as a type of “neuronal noise” that can trigger perceptual switches when viewing an ambiguous, bistable stimulus. However, no prior study has directly quantified how such neuronal noise relates to the rate of percept reversals. Specifically, it has remained unknown whether individual differences in complexity of resting-state oscillations—as reflected in long-range temporal correlations (LRTC)—are associated with perceptual stability. We hypothesized that participants with stronger resting-state LRTC in the alpha band experience more stable percepts, and thereby fewer perceptual switches. Furthermore, we expected that participants who report less discontinuous thoughts during rest, experience less switches. To test this, we recorded EEG in 65 healthy volunteers during 5 minutes eyes-closed rest, after which they filled in the Amsterdam Resting-State Questionnaire. This was followed by three conditions where participants attended an ambiguous structure-from-motion stimulus—Neutral (passively observe the stimulus), Hold (the percept for as long as possible), and Switch (as often as possible). LRTC of resting-state alpha oscillations predicted the number of switches only in the Hold condition, with stronger LRTC associated with less switches. Contrary to our expectations, there was no association between resting-state Discontinuity of Mind and percept stability. Participants were capable of controlling switching according to task goals, and this was accompanied by increased alpha power during Hold and decreased power during Switch. Fewer switches were associated with stronger task-related alpha LRTC in all conditions. Together, our data suggest that bistable visual perception is to some extent under voluntary control and influenced by LRTC of alpha oscillations.

Keywords: bistable perception, spontaneous brain fluctuations, Voluntary Control, Resting-state EEG, resting-state questionnaire

Received: 18 Jan 2018; Accepted: 06 Apr 2018.

Edited by:

Juliana Yordanova, Institute of Neurobiology (BAS), Bulgaria

Reviewed by:

Keiichi Kitajo, RIKEN Brain Science Institute (BSI), Japan
Gennady Knyazev, State Scientific-Research Institute of Physiology & Basic Medicine, Russia  

Copyright: © 2018 Sangiuliano Intra, Avramiea, Irrmischer, Poil, Mansvelder and Linkenkaer-Hansen. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Klaus Linkenkaer-Hansen, VU University Amsterdam, Integrative Neurophysiology, CNCR, Amsterdam Neuroscience, Amsterdam, Netherlands, klaus.linkenkaer@cncr.vu.nl