The role of alpha oscillations in spatial attention: limited evidence for a suppression account

Curr Opin Psychol. 2019 Oct:29:34-40. doi: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2018.11.001. Epub 2018 Nov 8.


Covert spatial attention allows us to prioritize visual processing at relevant locations. A fast growing literature suggests that alpha-band (8-12 Hz) oscillations play a key role in this core cognitive process. It is clear that alpha-band activity tracks both the locus and timing of covert spatial orienting. There is limited evidence, however, for the widely embraced view that alpha oscillations suppress irrelevant visual information during spatial selection. Extant evidence is equally compatible with an account in which alpha activity enables spatial selection through signal enhancement rather than distractor suppression. Thus, more work is needed to characterize the computational role of alpha activity in spatial attention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alpha Rhythm / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Mapping / instrumentation
  • Cues
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Space Perception / physiology*