Neurophysiological mechanisms underlying rhythmic patterns in perceptual sensitivity, an EEG study.

We perceive the world as continuous, yet our perception fluctuates in a rhythmic manner. It is unknown what are the neurophysiological mechanisms that underly this behavioural phenomenon. Alice Tomassini, a new member of my lab, showed in a recent paper (read it here), the involvement of the motor system in these rhythmic fluctuations. This study found rhythmic patterns in visual contrast sensitivity time-locked to the onset of voluntary hand movements. Importantly, the oscillations in visual perception emerge already during motor planning, approximately 500 ms before movement. These findings suggest an automatic coupling between motor planning and visual processing.

In this study, we will use the electro-encephalogram (EEG) to identify rhythmic neural activity that is coupled to the rhythmic perceptual fluctuations. Importantly, because these perceptual fluctuations are time-locked to voluntary hand movements, we will also measure these hand movements and investigate their coupling to rhythmic neural activity.

In this project, you will conduct a combined behavioural-electrophysiological experiment in which you will learn to collect and analyse the EEG in relation to behaviour. Depending on your interest and skill, we may also record eye-movements, which will allow us to answer the question whether the coupling between hand and eye movements are responsible for the observed rhythmic patterns in the visual contrast sensitivity.

Depending on the number of participating students, we will conduct one or more experiments that all focus on one aspect of the hypothesised relation between motor planning and visual processing. All participating students will be participants in the other students' experiments.

Students must have an interest in the relation between neurophysiology and behaviour. Moreover, they should be able to program in Matlab. If they do not have this skill, they should follow the Matlab course of the BA3 Psychology program.

All experiments will be supervised by Alice Tomassini and Eric Maris.