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Systems and cognitive neuroscience aim at understanding the neurophysiological mechanisms that underlie cognition and behavior. Many studies have revealed the involvement of many types of neural signals in diverse cognitive and behavioral phenomena. Here, we go beyond establishing such involvement and address two fundamental, yet largely unaddressed, questions: 1) exactly how much does a given neural signal contribute to a cognitive or behavioral phenomenon of interest; and 2) to what extent are distinct neural signals independently related to this phenomenon? We recorded brain activity using magnetoencephalography while human participants performed a cued somatosensory detection task. Using a novel method, we then quantified the contribution (in a predictive but not causal sense) of two well-established neural phenomena to the improvement in perception with attentional orienting. In our sample, the anticipatory suppression of extracranially recorded oscillatory α- and β-band amplitudes from contralateral primary somatosensory cortex could account for maximally 29% of the attention-induced improvement in tactile perception. In addition, although amplitude suppressions in the α- and β-frequency bands both contributed to this improvement, their contribution was largely shared. These data reveal the upper limit of the cognitive/behavioral relevance of this type of signal and show that at least 71% of the perceptual improvement with attention must be accounted for by other signals.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurophysiol

Publication Date





2352 - 2362


Adult, Alpha Rhythm, Anticipation, Psychological, Attention, Beta Rhythm, Cues, Female, Humans, Magnetoencephalography, Male, Somatosensory Cortex, Touch Perception