Attention Reorients Periodically

Laura Dugué, Mariel Roberts, Marisa Carrasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reorienting of voluntary attention enables the processing of stimuli at previously unattended locations. Although studies have identified a ventral fronto-parietal network underlying attention [1, 2], little is known about whether and how early visual areas are involved in involuntary [3, 4] and even less in voluntary [5] reorienting, and their temporal dynamics are unknown. We used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over the occipital cortex to interfere with attentional reorienting and study its role and temporal dynamics in this process. Human observers performed an orientation discrimination task, with either valid or invalid attention cueing, across a range of stimulus contrasts. Valid cueing induced a behavioral response gain increase, higher asymptotic performance for attended than unattended locations. During subsequent TMS sessions, observers performed the same task, with high stimulus contrast. Based on phosphene mapping, TMS double pulses were applied at one of various delays to a consistent brain location in retinotopic areas (V1/V2), corresponding to the evoked signal of the target or distractor, in a valid or invalid trial. Thus, the stimulation was identical for the four experimental conditions (valid/invalid cue condition × target/distractor-stimulated). TMS modulation of the target and distractor were both periodic (5 Hz, theta) and out of phase with respect to each other in invalid trials only, when attention had to be disengaged from the distractor and reoriented to the target location. Reorientation of voluntary attention periodically involves V1/V2 at the theta frequency. These results suggest that TMS probes theta phase-reset by attentional reorienting and help link periodic sampling in time and attention reorienting in space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1595-1601
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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