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Abstract

Rhythmic auditory stimuli are known to elicit matching activity patterns in neural populations. Furthermore, recent research has established the particular importance of high-gamma brain activity in auditory processing by showing its involvement in auditory phrase segmentation and envelope tracking. Here, we use electrocorticographic (ECoG) recordings from eight human listeners to see whether periodicities in high-gamma activity track the periodicities in the envelope of musical rhythms during rhythm perception and imagination. Rhythm imagination was elicited by instructing participants to imagine the rhythm to continue during pauses of several repetitions. To identify electrodes whose periodicities in high-gamma activity track the periodicities in the musical rhythms, we compute the correlation between the autocorrelations (ACCs) of both the musical rhythms and the neural signals. A condition in which participants listened to white noise was used to establish a baseline. High-gamma autocorrelations in auditory areas in the superior temporal gyrus and in frontal areas on both hemispheres significantly matched the autocorrelations of the musical rhythms. Overall, numerous significant electrodes are observed on the right hemisphere. Of particular interest is a large cluster of electrodes in the right prefrontal cortex that is active during both rhythm perception and imagination. This indicates conscious processing of the rhythms' structure as opposed to mere auditory phenomena. The autocorrelation approach clearly highlights that high-gamma activity measured from cortical electrodes tracks both attended and imagined rhythms.

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