Recent studies have shown that ongoing activity fluctuations influence trial-by-trial perception of identical stimuli. Some brain systems seem to bias toward better perceptual performance and others toward worse.Wetested whether these observations generalize to another as of yet unassessed sensory modality, audition, and a nonspatial but memory-dependent paradigm. In a sparse event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging design, we investigated detection of auditory near-threshold stimuli as a function of prestimulus baseline activity in early auditory cortex as well as several distributed networks that were defined on the basis of resting state functional connectivity. In accord with previous studies, hits were associated with higher prestimulus activity in related early sensory cortex as well as in a system comprising anterior insula, anterior cingulate, and thalamus, which other studies have related to processing salience and maintaining task set. In contrast to previous studies, however, higher prestimulus activity in the so-called dorsal attention system of frontal and parietal cortex biased toward misses, whereas higher activity in the so-called default mode network that includes posterior cingulate and precuneus biased toward hits. These results contradict a simple dichotomic view on the function of these two latter brain systems where higher ongoing activity in the dorsal attention network would facilitate perceptual performance, and higher activity in the default mode network would deteriorate perceptual performance. Instead, we show that the way in which ongoing activity fluctuations impact on perception depends on the specific sensory (i.e., nonspatial) and cognitive (i.e., mnemonic) context that is relevant.
ASJC Scopus subject areas