Prestimulus neural alpha power predicts confidence in discriminating identical auditory stimuli

Malte Wöstmann*, Leonhard Waschke, Jonas Obleser

*Corresponding author for this work
33 Citations (Scopus)


When deciding upon a sensory stimulus, the power of prestimulus neural alpha oscillations (~10 Hz) has been shown to hold information on a perceiver's bias, or confidence, as opposed to perceptual sensitivity per se. Here, we test whether this link between prestimulus alpha power and decision confidence, previously established in vision and somatosensation, also holds in the auditory modality. Moreover, confidence usually depends on the physical evidence available in the stimulus as well as on decision accuracy. It is unclear in how far the link between prestimulus alpha power and confidence holds when physical stimulus evidence is entirely absent, and thus accuracy does not vary. We here analysed electroencephalography data from a paradigm where human listeners (N = 17) rated their confidence in the discrimination of the pitch of two tones that were, unbeknownst to the listeners, identical. Lower prestimulus alpha power as recorded at central channel sites was predictive of higher confidence ratings. Furthermore, this link was not mediated by auditory evoked activity. Our results support a direct link between prestimulus alpha power and decision confidence. This effect, first, shows up in the auditory modality similar to vision and somatosensation, and second, is present also in the complete absence of physical evidence in the stimulus and in the absence of varying accuracy. These findings speak to a model wherein low prestimulus alpha power increases neural baseline excitability, which is reflected in enhanced stimulus-evoked neural responses and higher confidence.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)94-105
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 01.2019

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)

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