In the present study we have tested the hypothesis that evoked traveling alpha waves are behaviorally significant. The results of a visual-semantic categorization task show that three early ERP components including the P1-N1 complex had a dominant frequency characteristic in the alpha range and behaved like traveling waves do. They exhibited a traveling direction from midline occipital to right lateral parietal sites. Phase analyses revealed that this traveling behavior of ERP components could be explained by phase-delays in the alpha but not theta and beta frequency range. Most importantly, we found that the speed of the traveling alpha wave was significantly and negatively correlated with reaction time indicating that slow traveling speed was associated with fast picture-categorization. We conclude that evoked alpha oscillations are functionally associated with early access to visual-semantic information and generate--or at least modulate--the early waveforms of the visual ERP.
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