Actively but not passively synchronized motor activity amplifies predictive timing

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Abstract

Previous studies have shown that the effect of temporal predictability of presented stimuli on attention allocation is enhanced by auditory-motor synchronization (AMS). The present P300 event-related potential study (N = 20) investigated whether this enhancement depends on the process of actively synchronizing one's motor output with the acoustic input or whether a passive state of auditory-motor synchrony elicits the same effect. Participants silently counted frequency deviants in sequences of pure tones either during a physically inactive control condition or while pedaling on a cycling ergometer. Tones were presented either at fixed or variable intervals. In addition to the pedaling conditions with fixed or variable stimulation, there was a third condition in which stimuli were adaptively presented in sync with the participants' spontaneous pedaling. We replicated the P300 enhancement for fixed versus variable stimulation and the amplification of this effect by AMS. Synchronization performance correlated positively with P300 amplitude in the fixed stimulation condition. Most interestingly, P300 amplitude was significantly reduced for the passive synchronization condition by adaptive stimulus presentation as compared to the fixed stimulation condition. For the first time we thus provide evidence that it is not the passive state of (even perfect) auditory-motor synchrony that facilitates attention allocation during AMS but rather the active process of synchronizing one's movements with external stimuli.

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