The roles of cortical oscillations in sustained attention

Trends Cogn Sci. 2015 Apr;19(4):188-95. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2015.02.004. Epub 2015 Mar 9.


We rely on sustained attention to protect task performance against fatigue and distraction. Time-related variations in attention correlate with amplitude changes of specific cortical oscillations. However, the ways in which these oscillations might support sustained attention, how these oscillations are controlled, and the extent to which they influence one another remain unclear. We address this issue by proposing an oscillatory model of sustained attention. Within this framework, sustained attention relies on frontomedial theta oscillations, inter-areal communication via low-frequency phase synchronisation, and selective excitation and inhibition of cognitive processing through gamma and alpha oscillations, respectively. Sustained attention also relies on interactions between these oscillations across attention-related brain networks.

Keywords: alpha; attention; control; gamma; oscillations; theta.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Waves / physiology*
  • Cortical Synchronization / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*