Dynamics of alpha suppression and enhancement may be related to resource competition in cross-modal cortical regions

Grace M. Clements, Mate Gyurkovics, Kathy A. Low, Diane M. Beck, Monica Fabiani, Gabriele Gratton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the face of multiple sensory streams, there may be competition for processing resources in multimodal cortical areas devoted to establishing representations. In such cases, alpha oscillations may serve to maintain the relevant representations and protect them from interference, whereas theta band activity may facilitate their updating when needed. It can be hypothesized that these oscillations would differ in response to an auditory stimulus when the eyes are open or closed, as intermodal resource competition may be more prominent in the former than in the latter case. Across two studies we investigated the role of alpha and theta power in multimodal competition using an auditory task with the eyes open and closed, respectively enabling and disabling visual processing in parallel with the incoming auditory stream. In a passive listening task (Study 1a), we found alpha suppression following a pip tone with both eyes open and closed, but subsequent alpha enhancement only with closed eyes. We replicated this eyes-closed alpha enhancement in an independent sample (Study 1b). In an active auditory oddball task (Study 2), we again observed the eyes open/eyes closed alpha pattern found in Study 1 and also demonstrated that the more attentionally demanding oddball trials elicited the largest oscillatory effects. Theta power did not interact with eye status in either study. We propose a hypothesis to account for the findings in which alpha may be endemic to multimodal cortical areas in addition to visual ones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number119048
StatePublished - May 15 2022


  • Alpha enhancement
  • Alpha suppression
  • EEG alpha power
  • EEG theta power
  • Multimodal processing
  • Resource competition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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