High-alpha band synchronization across frontal, parietal and visual cortex mediates behavioral and neuronal effects of visuospatial attention

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Abstract

Visuospatial attention prioritizes processing of attended visual stimuli. It is characterized by lateralized alpha-band (8–14 Hz) amplitude suppression in visual cortex and increased neuronal activity in a network of frontal and parietal areas. It has remained unknown what mechanisms coordinate neuronal processing among frontoparietal network and visual cortices and implement the attention-related modulations of alpha-band amplitudes and behavior. We investigated whether large-scale network synchronization could be such a mechanism. We recorded human cortical activity with magnetoencephalography (MEG) during a visuospatial attention task. We then identified the frequencies and anatomical networks of inter-areal phase synchronization from source localized MEG data. We found that visuospatial attention is associated with robust and sustained long-range synchronization of cortical oscillations exclusively in the high-alpha (10–14 Hz) frequency band. This synchronization connected frontal, parietal and visual regions and was observed concurrently with amplitude suppression of low-alpha (6–9 Hz) band oscillations in visual cortex. Furthermore, stronger high-alpha phase synchronization was associated with decreased reaction times to attended stimuli and larger suppression of alpha-band amplitudes. These results thus show that high-alpha band phase synchronization is functionally significant and could coordinate the neuronal communication underlying the implementation of visuospatial attention.

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