The Spatiotemporal Link of Temporal Expectations: Contextual Temporal Expectation Is Independent of Spatial Attention

Noam Tal-Perry*, Shlomit Yuval-Greenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Temporal expectation is the ability to construct predictions regarding the timing of events, based on previously experienced temporal regularities of different types. For example, cue-based expectations are constructed when a cue validly indicates when a target is expected to occur. However, in the absence of such cues, expectations can be constructed based on contextual temporal information, including the onset distribution of the event and recent prior experiences, both providing implicit probabilistic information regarding the timing of the event. It was previously suggested that cue-based temporal expectation is exerted via synchronization of spatially specific neural activity at a predictable time of a target, within receptive fields corresponding to the expected location of the target. Here, we tested whether the same theoretical model holds for contextual temporal effects. Participants (n = 40, 25 females) performed a speeded spatial-cuing detection task with two-thirds valid spatial cues. The hazard-rate function of the target was modulated by varying the foreperiod—the interval between the spatial cue and the target—among trials and was manipulated between groups by changing the interval distribution. Reaction times were analyzed using both frequentist and Bayesian generalized linear mixed models, accounting for hazard and sequential effects. Results showed that the effects of contextual temporal structures on reaction times were independent of spatial attention. This suggests that the spatiotemporal mechanisms, thought to account for cue-based expectation, cannot explain other sources of temporal expectations. We conclude that expectations based on contextual structures have different characteristics than cue-based temporal expectation, suggesting reliance on distinct neural mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2516-2523
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number12
StatePublished - 23 Mar 2022


  • FP-RT slope
  • hazard-rate function
  • reaction time
  • sequential effect
  • temporal attention
  • variable foreperiod effect


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