EEG / MEG Neural Oscillations Papers Perception Publications

New paper in press: Alavash et al. in Net­work Neuroscience

We are proud to pub­lish our recent study on how net­work dynam­ics of beta-band oscil­la­tions in the human brain medi­ate response speed in audi­to­ry per­cep­tu­al deci­sion-mak­ing. This work will appear soon in the first vol­ume of the promis­ing jour­nal Net­work Neu­ro­science.

Pre-print link

Per­cep­tu­al deci­sions vary in the speed at which we make them. Evi­dence sug­gests that trans­lat­ing sen­so­ry infor­ma­tion into behav­ioral deci­sions relies on dis­trib­uted inter­act­ing neur­al pop­u­la­tions, with deci­sion speed hing­ing on pow­er mod­u­la­tions of neur­al oscil­la­tions. Yet, the depen­dence of per­cep­tu­al deci­sions on the large-scale net­work orga­ni­za­tion of cou­pled neur­al oscil­la­tions has remained elu­sive. We mea­sured mag­ne­toen­cephalog­ra­phy sig­nals in human lis­ten­ers who judged acoustic stim­uli made of care­ful­ly titrat­ed clouds of tone sweeps. These stim­uli were used under two task con­texts where the par­tic­i­pants judged the over­all pitch or direc­tion of the tone sweeps. We traced the large-scale net­work dynam­ics of source-pro­ject­ed neur­al oscil­la­tions on a tri­al-by-tri­al basis using pow­er enve­lope cor­re­la­tions and graph-the­o­ret­i­cal net­work dis­cov­ery. Under both tasks, faster deci­sions were pre­dict­ed by high­er seg­re­ga­tion and low­er inte­gra­tion of cou­pled beta-band (~16–28 Hz) oscil­la­tions. We also uncov­ered brain net­work states that pro­mot­ed faster deci­sions and emerged from low­er-order audi­to­ry and high­er-order con­trol brain areas. Specif­i­cal­ly, deci­sion speed in judg­ing tone-sweep direc­tion crit­i­cal­ly relied on nodal net­work con­fig­u­ra­tions of ante­ri­or tem­po­ral, cin­gu­late and mid­dle frontal cor­tices. Our find­ings sug­gest that glob­al net­work com­mu­ni­ca­tion dur­ing per­cep­tu­al deci­sion-mak­ing is imple­ment­ed in the human brain by large-scale cou­plings between beta-band neur­al oscillations.
Auditory Cortex Auditory Neuroscience Editorial Notes Neural Oscillations Papers Psychology

Sto­ry time: Hen­ry & Obleser (2012) revisited

Sto­ry time: Some time in ear­ly 2011, I sat down with an Amer­i­can, fresh PhD grad­u­ate who had just joined my new lab, in a Leipzig bar (Café Can­tona; if you are inter­est­ed you can find this great 247 bar with exquis­ite food also in the acknowl­edg­ments of, e.g., Obleser & Eis­ner, Trends Cogn Sci, 2009).
To the day, I could still point you to the table she and I sat down at, and the wall I faced (which is notable because we actu­al­ly spent an unhealthy amount of time and mon­ey there over the years). Soon there­after, we grabbed a beer mat and start­ed scrib­bling waves and marked where we would place so-called tar­gets (psy­chol­o­gist lin­go) and talked a lot of gib­ber­ish about fre­quen­cy mod­u­la­tion. I remem­ber vidid­ly that I had just read an insane­ly long review paper on neur­al oscil­la­tions by Wolf­gang Klimesch (that, more in pass­ing, cit­ed old-school tales of Schmitt fil­ters by the late great Francesco Varela or pio­neers  sound­ing like record pro­duc­ers, Dust­man & Beck, 1965), while the young Amer­i­can oppo­site me turned out to be an—if adventurous—die-hard expert on audi­to­ry psychophysics.

Who would have thought that this very night would car­ry me towards tenure in three years’ time, and her around the globe as an esteemed young colleague.
When I nowa­days check Google schol­ar, I am amazed to see that already more than 100 oth­er papers have cit­ed what direct­ly grew out of that beer mat one and a half years later—not count­ing the many more papers this said post­doc, Mol­ly Hen­ry, has pro­duced since.

Here is the link to how excit­ed we were when the paper appeared in PNAS in 2012, and a link to the lit­tle movie a ger­man sci­ence pro­gram kind­ly pro­duced on all of this in 2013.

Auditory Cortex Auditory Perception Cross-Modal Integration EEG / MEG Neural Oscillations Perception

New paper out: Plöchl, Gas­ton, Mer­ma­gen, König & Hair­ston, Sci­en­tif­ic Reports

An arti­cle by our new AC group mem­ber Michael Plöchl from his PhD project in Osnabrück has been accept­ed for pub­li­ca­tion in Sci­en­tif­ic Reports. In their study, Plöchl, Gas­ton, Mer­ma­gen, König and Hair­ston demon­strate that “Oscil­la­to­ry activ­i­ty in audi­to­ry cor­tex reflects the per­cep­tu­al lev­el of audio-tac­tile integration”.


Cross-modal inter­ac­tions between sen­so­ry chan­nels have been shown to depend on both the spa­tial dis­par­i­ty and the per­cep­tu­al sim­i­lar­i­ty between the pre­sent­ed stim­uli. Here we inves­ti­gate the behav­ioral and neur­al inte­gra­tion of audi­to­ry and tac­tile stim­u­lus pairs at dif­fer­ent lev­els of spa­tial dis­par­i­ty. Addi­tion­al­ly, we mod­u­lat­ed the ampli­tudes of both stim­uli in either a coher­ent or non-coher­ent man­ner. We found that both audi­to­ry and tac­tile local­iza­tion per­for­mance was biased towards the stim­u­lus in the respec­tive oth­er modal­i­ty. This bias lin­ear­ly increas­es with stim­u­lus dis­par­i­ty and is more pro­nounced for coher­ent­ly mod­u­lat­ed stim­u­lus pairs. Analy­ses of elec­troen­cephalo­graph­ic (EEG) activ­i­ty at temporal–cortical sources revealed enhanced event-relat­ed poten­tials (ERPs) as well as decreased alpha and beta pow­er dur­ing bimodal as com­pared to uni­modal stim­u­la­tion. How­ev­er, while the observed ERP dif­fer­ences are sim­i­lar for all stim­u­lus com­bi­na­tions, the extent of oscil­la­to­ry desyn­chro­niza­tion varies with stim­u­lus dis­par­i­ty. More­over, when both stim­uli were sub­jec­tive­ly per­ceived as orig­i­nat­ing from the same direc­tion, the reduc­tion in alpha and beta pow­er was sig­nif­i­cant­ly stronger. These obser­va­tions sug­gest that in the EEG the lev­el of per­cep­tu­al inte­gra­tion is main­ly reflect­ed by changes in ongo­ing oscil­la­to­ry activity.
Auditory Cortex Auditory Perception Media Neural Oscillations Papers Publications Uncategorized

New fea­turette in eLife: Tell me some­thing I don’t know

For those inter­est­ed in audi­to­ry cor­tex and how a regime of pre­dic­tions, pre­dic­tion updates and sur­prise (a ver­sion of “pre­dic­tion error”) might be imple­ment­ed there, I con­tributed a brief fea­turette (“insight”, they call it) to eLife on a recent paper by Will Sed­ley, Tim Grif­fiths, and oth­ers. Check it out.

[For those not so famil­iar with it, “eLife”, despite its aes­thet­i­cal­ly ques­tion­able name, pos­es an inter­est­ing and rel­a­tive­ly new, high-pro­file, open-access pub­lish­ing effort by nobel-prize-win­ning Randy Schek­man, for­mer SfN pres­i­dent Eve Marder and others.] 
Auditory Cortex Auditory Neuroscience Auditory Perception Auditory Speech Processing Editorial Notes EEG / MEG Executive Functions Neural Oscillations Neural Phase Papers Publications Speech Uncategorized

[UPDATE] New paper in PNAS: Spa­tiotem­po­ral dynam­ics of audi­to­ry atten­tion syn­chro­nize with speech, Woest­mann et al.

Wöst­mann, Her­rmann, Maess and Obleser demon­strate that the hemi­spher­ic lat­er­al­iza­tion of neur­al alpha oscil­la­tions mea­sured in the mag­ne­toen­cephalo­gram (MEG) syn­chro­nizes with the speech sig­nal and pre­dicts lis­ten­ers’ speech comprehension.

Now avail­able online:

Press release:


Atten­tion plays a fun­da­men­tal role in selec­tive­ly pro­cess­ing stim­uli in our envi­ron­ment despite dis­trac­tion. Spa­tial atten­tion induces increas­ing and decreas­ing pow­er of neur­al alpha oscil­la­tions (8–12 Hz) in brain regions ipsi­lat­er­al and con­tralat­er­al to the locus of atten­tion, respec­tive­ly. This study test­ed whether the hemi­spher­ic lat­er­al­iza­tion of alpha pow­er codes not just the spa­tial loca­tion but also the tem­po­ral struc­ture of the stim­u­lus. Par­tic­i­pants attend­ed to spo­ken dig­its pre­sent­ed to one ear and ignored tight­ly syn­chro­nized dis­tract­ing dig­its pre­sent­ed to the oth­er ear. In the mag­ne­toen­cephalo­gram, spa­tial atten­tion induced lat­er­al­iza­tion of alpha pow­er in pari­etal, but notably also in audi­to­ry cor­ti­cal regions. This alpha pow­er lat­er­al­iza­tion was not main­tained steadi­ly but fluc­tu­at­ed in syn­chrony with the speech rate and lagged the time course of low-fre­quen­cy (1–5 Hz) sen­so­ry syn­chro­niza­tion. High­er ampli­tude of alpha pow­er mod­u­la­tion at the speech rate was pre­dic­tive of a listener’s enhanced per­for­mance of stream-spe­cif­ic speech com­pre­hen­sion. Our find­ings demon­strate that alpha pow­er lat­er­al­iza­tion is mod­u­lat­ed in tune with the sen­so­ry input and acts as a spa­tiotem­po­ral fil­ter con­trol­ling the read-out of sen­so­ry content.
EEG / MEG Neural Oscillations Posters Publications

Herb­st & Lan­dau on Rhythms for cog­ni­tion: the case of tem­po­ral processing

In an invit­ed review in Cur­rent Opin­ion in Behav­ioral Sci­ences, Sophie Herb­st and Ayelet Lan­dau (The Hebrew Uni­ver­si­ty of Jerusalem) dis­cuss the role of spon­ta­neous and stim­u­lus-evoked neur­al oscil­la­tions in tem­po­ral processing.

Now avail­able online:

Auditory Working Memory EEG / MEG Executive Functions Neural Oscillations Papers Publications

New Paper by Lim, Wöst­mann, & Obleser in Jour­nal of Neuroscience

Can you atten­tive­ly “high­light” audi­to­ry traces in mem­o­ry? If so, what are poten­tial neur­al mech­a­nisms of it?

Sung-Joo Lim’s paper in J Neurosci;

Selec­tive Atten­tion to Audi­to­ry Mem­o­ry Neu­ral­ly Enhances Per­cep­tu­al Precision

is now avail­able online (full text).

Selec­tive atten­tion to a task-rel­e­vant stim­u­lus facil­i­tates encod­ing of that stim­u­lus into a work­ing mem­o­ry rep­re­sen­ta­tion. It is less clear whether selec­tive atten­tion also improves the pre­ci­sion of a stim­u­lus already rep­re­sent­ed in mem­o­ry. Here, we inves­ti­gate the behav­ioral and neur­al dynam­ics of selec­tive atten­tion to rep­re­sen­ta­tions in audi­to­ry work­ing mem­o­ry (i.e., audi­to­ry objects) using psy­chophys­i­cal mod­el­ing and mod­el-based analy­sis of elec­troen­cephalo­graph­ic sig­nals. Human lis­ten­ers per­formed a syl­la­ble pitch dis­crim­i­na­tion task where two syl­la­bles served as to-be-encod­ed audi­to­ry objects. Valid (vs neu­tral) retroac­tive cues were pre­sent­ed dur­ing reten­tion to allow lis­ten­ers to selec­tive­ly attend to the to-be-probed audi­to­ry object in mem­o­ry. Behav­ioral­ly, lis­ten­ers rep­re­sent­ed audi­to­ry objects in mem­o­ry more pre­cise­ly (expressed by steep­er slopes of a psy­cho­me­t­ric curve) and made faster per­cep­tu­al deci­sions when valid com­pared to neu­tral retrocues were pre­sent­ed. Neu­ral­ly, valid com­pared to neu­tral retrocues elicit­ed a larg­er fron­to­cen­tral sus­tained neg­a­tiv­i­ty in the evoked poten­tial as well as enhanced pari­etal alpha/low-beta oscil­la­to­ry pow­er (9–18 Hz) dur­ing mem­o­ry reten­tion. Crit­i­cal­ly, indi­vid­ual mag­ni­tudes of alpha oscil­la­to­ry pow­er (7–11 Hz) mod­u­la­tion pre­dict­ed the degree to which valid retrocues ben­e­fit­ted indi­vid­u­als’ behav­ior. Our results indi­cate that selec­tive atten­tion to a spe­cif­ic object in audi­to­ry mem­o­ry does ben­e­fit human per­for­mance not by sim­ply reduc­ing mem­o­ry load, but by active­ly engag­ing com­ple­men­tary neur­al resources to sharp­en the pre­ci­sion of the task-rel­e­vant object in memory.


EEG / MEG Neural Oscillations Papers Publications

New paper by Hen­ry, Her­rmann, & Obleser in Jour­nal of Neuroscience

For­mer Oble­ser­lab post­doc Mol­ly Hen­ry with Björn Her­rmann and Jonas Obleser has a new pub­li­ca­tion in press at Jour­nal of Neuroscience.

Neur­al microstates gov­ern per­cep­tion of audi­to­ry input with­out rhyth­mic structure

by Hen­ry, MJ, Her­mann, B, Obleser, J (in press). J Neurosci.

In devi­a­tion from Molly’s for­mer par­a­digms, we here aimed at bet­ter under­stand­ing the role of oscil­la­to­ry (as well as non-oscil­la­to­ry) slow neur­al activ­i­ty in shap­ing audi­to­ry per­cep­tion when the stim­u­lus is devoid of any rhyth­mic structure.

For a change, the sig­nif­i­cance state­ment and a teas­er fig­ure are shown below.


Our abil­i­ty to hear faint sounds fluc­tu­ates togeth­er with slow brain activ­i­ty that syn­chro­nizes with envi­ron­men­tal rhythms. How­ev­er, it is so far not known how brain activ­i­ty at dif­fer­ent time scales might inter­act to influ­ence per­cep­tion when there is no rhythm with which brain activ­i­ty can syn­chro­nize. Here, we used elec­troen­cephalog­ra­phy (EEG) to mea­sure brain activ­i­ty while par­tic­i­pants lis­tened for short silences that inter­rupt­ed ongo­ing noise. We exam­ined brain activ­i­ty in three dif­fer­ent fre­quen­cy bands: delta, theta, and alpha. Par­tic­i­pants’ abil­i­ty to detect gaps depend­ed on dif­fer­ent num­bers of fre­quen­cy bands — some­times one, two, or three — at dif­fer­ent times. Changes in the num­ber of fre­quen­cy bands that pre­dict per­cep­tion are a hall­mark of a com­plex neur­al system.