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Probabilistic associations between stimuli afford memory templates that guide perception through proactive anticipatory mechanisms. A great deal of work has examined the behavioral consequences and human electrophysiological substrates of anticipation following probabilistic memory cues that carry spatial or temporal information to guide perception. However, less is understood about the electrophysiological substrates linked to anticipating the sensory content of events based on recurring associations between successive events. Here, we demonstrate behavioral and electrophysiological signatures of using associative-memory templates to guide perception, while equating spatial and temporal anticipation (experiments 1 and 2), as well as target probability and response demands (experiment 2). By recording the electroencephalogram in the two experiments (N = 55; 24 females), we show that two markers in human electrophysiology implicated in spatial and temporal anticipation also contribute to the anticipation of perceptual identity, as follows: attenuation of alpha-band oscillations and the contingent negative variation (CNV). Together, our results show that memory-guided identity templates proactively impact perception and are associated with anticipatory states of attenuated alpha oscillations and the CNV. Furthermore, by isolating object-identity anticipation from spatial and temporal anticipation, our results suggest a role for alpha attenuation and the CNV in specific visual content anticipation beyond general changes in neural excitability or readiness.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Probabilistic associations between stimuli afford memory templates that guide perception through proactive anticipatory mechanisms. The current work isolates the behavioral benefits and electrophysiological signatures of memory-guided identity-based anticipation, while equating anticipation of space, time, motor responses, and task relevance. Our results show that anticipation of the specific identity of a forthcoming percept impacts performance and is associated with states of attenuated alpha oscillations and the contingent negative variation, extending previous work implicating these neural substrates in spatial and temporal preparatory attention. Together, this work bridges fields of attention, memory, and perception, providing new insights into the neural mechanisms that support complex attentional templates.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurosci

Publication Date





4010 - 4020


EEG, alpha, attention, memory, prediction, template, Adult, Alpha Rhythm, Anticipation, Psychological, Association Learning, Cues, Electroencephalography, Electrophysiological Phenomena, Female, Humans, Male, Memory, Psychomotor Performance, Space Perception, Visual Perception, Young Adult