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Title: Spontaneous Fluctuations in Sensory Processing Predict Within-Subject Reaction Time Variability
Authors: Ribeiro, Maria J. 
Paiva, Joana S 
Castelo-Branco, Miguel 
Issue Date: 2016
Project: FCT - SFRH/BPD/102188/2014 
Serial title, monograph or event: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
Volume: 10
Abstract: When engaged in a repetitive task our performance fluctuates from trial-to-trial. In particular, inter-trial reaction time variability has been the subject of considerable research. It has been claimed to be a strong biomarker of attention deficits, increases with frontal dysfunction, and predicts age-related cognitive decline. Thus, rather than being just a consequence of noise in the system, it appears to be under the control of a mechanism that breaks down under certain pathological conditions. Although the underlying mechanism is still an open question, consensual hypotheses are emerging regarding the neural correlates of reaction time inter-trial intra-individual variability. Sensory processing, in particular, has been shown to covary with reaction time, yet the spatio-temporal profile of the moment-to-moment variability in sensory processing is still poorly characterized. The goal of this study was to characterize the intra-individual variability in the time course of single-trial visual evoked potentials and its relationship with inter-trial reaction time variability. For this, we chose to take advantage of the high temporal resolution of the electroencephalogram (EEG) acquired while participants were engaged in a 2-choice reaction time task. We studied the link between single trial event-related potentials (ERPs) and reaction time using two different analyses: (1) time point by time point correlation analyses thereby identifying time windows of interest; and (2) correlation analyses between single trial measures of peak latency and amplitude and reaction time. To improve extraction of single trial ERP measures related with activation of the visual cortex, we used an independent component analysis (ICA) procedure. Our ERP analysis revealed a relationship between the N1 visual evoked potential and reaction time. The earliest time point presenting a significant correlation of its respective amplitude with reaction time occurred 175 ms after stimulus onset, just after the onset of the N1 peak. Interestingly, single trial N1 latency correlated significantly with reaction time, while N1 amplitude did not. In conclusion, our findings suggest that inter-trial variability in the timing of extrastriate visual processing contributes to reaction time variability.
DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00200
Rights: openAccess
Appears in Collections:I&D IBILI - Artigos em Revistas Internacionais

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