Visual Contrast Sensitivity Improvement by Right Frontal High-Beta Activity Is Mediated by Contrast Gain Mechanisms and Influenced by Fronto-Parietal White Matter Microstructure

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Abstract

Behavioral and electrophysiological studies in humans and non-human primates have correlated frontal high-beta activity with the orienting of endogenous attention and shown the ability of the latter function to modulate visual performance. We here combined rhythmic transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and diffusion imaging to study the relation between frontal oscillatory activity and visual performance, and we associated these phenomena to a specific set of white matter pathways that in humans subtend attentional processes. High-beta rhythmic activity on the right frontal eye field (FEF) was induced with TMS and its causal effects on a contrast sensitivity function were recorded to explore its ability to improve visual detection performance across different stimulus contrast levels. Our results show that frequency-specific activity patterns engaged in the right FEF have the ability to induce a leftward shift of the psychometric function. This increase in visual performance across different levels of stimulus contrast is likely mediated by a contrast gain mechanism. Interestingly, microstructural measures of white matter connectivity suggest a strong implication of right fronto-parietal connectivity linking the FEF and the intraparietal sulcus in propagating high-beta rhythmic signals across brain networks and subtending top-down frontal influences on visual performance.

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