Neuroreport 2003 Jul;14(10):1385-9
The Open University, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK.
The human ability to quickly recognise faces and objects is an important skill. This skill may be facilitated by the prior existence of context-setting functional brain states. MEG was used to test the hypothesis that such states may be defined neurophysiologically. One type of state was identified by evaluating deterministic features in the dynamics of pre-stimulus brain activity in 10 individuals engaging in an object categorisation task. These states followed a statistical gamma-distribution similar to that seen in models of percept duration of competing stimuli. Both an early (42 ms) and a late (440 ms) response were only seen for face stimuli that were presented during states in which the MEG data displayed low determinism. A second type of state was identified by evaluating amplitudes of pre-stimulus brain activity. Between 140 and 150 ms, activity was highest for face as well as non-face stimuli presented during a low amplitude state. These findings suggest that detectable states may provide an endogenous context for object processing, independently of experimental parameters.