Top-down alpha oscillatory network interactions during visuospatial attention orienting

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Neuroimaging and lesion studies indicate that visual attention is controlled by a distributed network of brain areas. The covert control of visuospatial attention has also been associated with retinotopic modulation of alpha-band oscillations within early visual cortex, which are thought to underlie inhibition of ignored areas of visual space. The relation between distributed networks mediating attention control and more focal oscillatory mechanisms, however, remains unclear. The present study evaluated the hypothesis that alpha-band, directed, network interactions within the attention control network are systematically modulated by the locus of visuospatial attention. We localized brain areas involved in visuospatial attention orienting using magnetoencephalographic (MEG) imaging and investigated alpha-band Granger-causal interactions among activated regions using narrow-band transfer entropy. The deployment of attention to one side of visual space was indexed by lateralization of alpha power changes between about 400 ms and 700 ms post-cue onset. The changes in alpha power were associated, in the same time period, with lateralization of anterior-to-posterior information flow in the alpha-band from various brain areas involved in attention control, including the anterior cingulate cortex, left middle and inferior frontal gyri, left superior temporal gyrus, and right insula, and inferior parietal lobule, to early visual areas. We interpreted these results to indicate that distributed network interactions mediated by alpha oscillations exert top-down influences on early visual cortex to modulate inhibition of processing for ignored areas of visual space.

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