Spatial Attention Tunes Temporal Processing in Early Visual Cortex by Speeding and Slowing Alpha Oscillations

Poppy Sharp, Tjerk Gutteling, David Melcher, Clayton Hickey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The perception of dynamic visual stimuli relies on two apparently conflicting perceptual mechanisms: rapid visual input must sometimes be integrated into unitary percepts but at other times must be segregated or parsed into separate objects or events. Though they have opposite effects on our perceptual experience, the deployment of spatial attention benefits both operations. Little is known about the neural mechanisms underlying this impact of spatial attention on temporal perception. Here, we record magnetoencephalography (MEG) in male and female humans to demonstrate that the deployment of spatial attention for the purpose of segregating or integrating visual stimuli impacts prestimulus oscillatory activity in retinotopic visual brain areas where the attended location is represented. Alpha band oscillations contralateral to an attended location are therefore faster than ipsilateral oscillations when stimuli appearing at this location will need to be segregated, but slower in expectation of the need for integration, consistent with the idea that a frequency is linked to perceptual sampling rate. These results demonstrate a novel interaction between temporal visual processing and the allocation of attention in space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7824-7832
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 12 2022


  • Alpha instantaneous Alpha frequency
  • MEG
  • spatial attention
  • temporal attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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