Spontaneous 8- to 10-Hz “tau-rhythm” in magnetoencephalographic (MEG) recordings has been reported to originate in the auditory cortex and be suppressed by sound. For unknown reasons however, tau-rhythm is often difficult to detect. In this study, we sought to characterize its emergence and auditory reactivity. Using a 306-channel MEG on 26 right-handed participants, we delivered six-second-long, natural, monaural sounds with pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral emotional valence. In eight participants, a clear, sound-related bilateral suppression of 8–10 Hz tau-rhythm occurred in the temporal areas, close to the source of the 100-ms auditory response. Moreover, these eight “tau subjects” exhibited significantly larger temporal-lobe theta-band (4–8 Hz) power over the entire experimental period compared to the remaining 18 “non-tau subjects”. As it is known that larger theta power is one of signs of drowsiness, this result is consistent with a previously proposed idea that tau-rhythm emerges during drowsiness. Tau-rhythm was furthermore significantly affected by emotional valence in the right hemisphere, where it was respectively suppressed by unpleasant and neutral sounds 8% and 6% more than by pleasant sounds, significantly. Altogether, our results reveal characteristics of tau-rhythm appearance and modulation which have hitherto been difficult to detect non-invasively.
- Auditory response