Alpha-Band Oscillations Enable Spatially and Temporally Resolved Tracking of Covert Spatial Attention

Psychol Sci. 2017 Jul;28(7):929-941. doi: 10.1177/0956797617699167. Epub 2017 May 24.


Covert spatial attention is essential for humans' ability to direct limited processing resources to the relevant aspects of visual scenes. A growing body of evidence suggests that rhythmic neural activity in the alpha frequency band (8-12 Hz) tracks the spatial locus of covert attention, which suggests that alpha activity is integral to spatial attention. However, extant work has not provided a compelling test of another key prediction: that alpha activity tracks the temporal dynamics of covert spatial orienting. In the current study, we examined the time course of spatially specific alpha activity after central cues and during visual search. Critically, the time course of this activity tracked trial-by-trial variations in orienting latency during visual search. These findings provide important new evidence for the link between rhythmic brain activity and covert spatial attention, and they highlight a powerful approach for tracking the spatial and temporal dynamics of this core cognitive process.

Keywords: EEG; alpha; inverted encoding model; open data; open materials; oscillations; spatial attention.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alpha Rhythm / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Humans
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Periodicity
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult