Automatic Temporal Expectancy: A High-Density Event-Related Potential Study

Vincenza Tarantino, Vincenza Tarantino, Giovanni Mento, Patrizia Silvia Bisiacchi, Michela Sarlo

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47 Citations (Scopus)


How we compute time is not fully understood. Questions include whether an automatic brain mechanism is engaged in temporally regular environmental structure in order to anticipate events, and whether this can be dissociated from task-related processes, including response preparation, selection and execution. To investigate these issues, a passive temporal oddball task requiring neither time-based motor response nor explicit decision was specifically designed and delivered to participants during high-density, event-related potentials recording. Participants were presented with pairs of audiovisual stimuli (S1 and S2) interspersed with an Inter-Stimulus Interval (ISI) that was manipulated according to an oddball probabilistic distribution. In the standard condition (70% of trials), the ISI lasted 1,500 ms, while in the two alternative, deviant conditions (15% each), it lasted 2,500 and 3,000 ms. The passive over-exposition to the standard ISI drove participants to automatically and progressively create an implicit temporal expectation of S2 onset, reflected by the time course of the Contingent Negative Variation response, which always peaked in correspondence to the point of S2 maximum expectation and afterwards inverted in polarity towards the baseline. Brain source analysis of S1- and ISI-related ERP activity revealed activation of sensorial cortical areas and the supplementary motor area (SMA), respectively. In particular, since the SMA time course synchronised with standard ISI, we suggest that this area is the major cortical generator of the temporal CNV reflecting an automatic, action-independent mechanism underlying temporal expectancy. © 2013 Mento et al.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages0
JournalPLoS One
Publication statusPublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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