Our brain does not process incoming sensory stimuli mechanistically. Instead the current brain state modulates our reaction to a stimulus. This modulation can be investigated by cognitive paradigms such as the attentional blink, which reveal that identical visual target stimuli are correctly reported only on about half the trials. Support for the notion that the fluctuating state of the brain determines stimulus detection comes from electrophysiological investigations of brain oscillations, which have shown that different parameters of ongoing oscillatory alpha activity (~10 Hz) can predict whether a visual stimulus will be perceived or not. The present article reviews recent findings on the role of prestimulus alpha oscillatory activity for visual perception and incorporates these results into a neurocognitive model that is able to account for various findings in temporal attention paradigms, specifically the attentional blink.
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