One thing leads to another: Anticipating visual object identity based on associative-memory

Sage E.P. Boettcher*, Mark G. Stokes, Anna C. Nobre, Freek van Ede

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Probabilistic associations between stimuli afford memory templates that guide perception through pro-active anticipatory mechanisms. A great deal of work has examined the behavioural 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 behavioural and electrophysiological signatures of utilising associative-memory templates to guide perception, while equating spatial and temporal anticipation (Experiment 1 and 2), as well as target probability and response demands (Experiment 2). By recording the electroencephalogram (EEG) in the two experiments (N=55; 24 Female), we show that two markers in human electrophysiology implicated in spatial and temporal anticipation also contribute to anticipation of perceptual identity: attenuation of alpha band oscillations and the contingent negative variation (CNV). Taken 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4010-4020
JournalThe Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 13 May 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Electroencephalography
  • Feature-based attention
  • Long-term memory
  • Paired associate
  • Prediction
  • Preparation
  • Pro-active
  • Target template
  • Vision
  • Working memory


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