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Detecting Unattended Stimuli Depends on the Phase of Prestimulus Neural Oscillations

Harris, AM; Dux, PE; Mattingley, JB; (2018) Detecting Unattended Stimuli Depends on the Phase of Prestimulus Neural Oscillations. The Journal of Neuroscience , 38 (12) pp. 3092-3101. 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3006-17.2018. Green open access

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Abstract

Neural oscillations appear important for perception and attention processes because stimulus detection is dependent upon the phase of 7-11 Hz oscillations before stimulus onset. Previous work has examined stimulus detection at attended locations, but it is unknown whether unattended locations are also subject to phasic modulation by ongoing oscillatory activity, as would be predicted by theories proposing a role for neural oscillations in organizing general neural processing. Here, we recorded brain activity with EEG while human participants of both sexes detected brief visual targets preceded by a spatial cue and determined whether performance for cued (attended) and uncued (unattended) targets was influenced by oscillatory phase across a range of frequencies. Detection of both attended and unattended targets depended upon an ∼5 Hz theta rhythm and an ∼11-15 Hz alpha rhythm. Critically, detection of unattended stimuli was more strongly modulated by the phase of theta oscillations than was detection of attended stimuli, suggesting that attentional allocation involves a disengagement from ongoing theta sampling. There was no attention-related difference in the strength of alpha phase dependence, consistent with a perceptual rather than attentional role of oscillatory phase in this frequency range. These results demonstrate the importance of neural oscillations in modulating visual processing at both attended and unattended locations and clarify one way in which attention may produce its effects: through disengagement from low-frequency sampling at attended locations.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTPast work on the interaction between oscillatory phase and neural processing has shown the involvement of posterior ∼7-11 Hz oscillations in visual processing. Most studies, however, have presented stimuli at attended locations, making it difficult to disentangle frequencies related to attention from those related to perception. Here, we compared the oscillatory frequencies involved in the detection of attended and unattended stimuli and found that ∼11-15 Hz oscillations were related to perception independently of attention, whereas ∼5 Hz oscillations were more prominent for the detection of unattended stimuli. This work demonstrates the importance of neural oscillations for mediating stimulus processing at both attended and unattended locations and clarifies the different oscillatory frequencies involved in attention and perception.

Type: Article
Title: Detecting Unattended Stimuli Depends on the Phase of Prestimulus Neural Oscillations
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3006-17.2018
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3006-17.2018
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the version of record. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Alpha, attention, neural oscillations, perception, phase, theta.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10046802
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