Dynamics of alpha suppression index both modality specific and general attention processes

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


EEG alpha power varies under many circumstances requiring visual attention. However, mounting evidence indicates that alpha may not only serve visual processing, but also the processing of stimuli presented in other sensory modalities, including hearing. We previously showed that alpha dynamics during an auditory task vary as a function of competition from the visual modality (Clements et al., 2022) suggesting that alpha may be engaged in multimodal processing. Here we assessed the impact of allocating attention to the visual or auditory modality on alpha dynamics at parietal and occipital electrodes, during the preparatory period of a cued-conflict task. In this task, bimodal precues indicated the modality (vision, hearing) relevant to a subsequent reaction stimulus, allowing us to assess alpha during modality-specific preparation and while switching between modalities. Alpha suppression following the precue occurred in all conditions, indicating that it may reflect general preparatory mechanisms. However, we observed a switch effect when preparing to attend to the auditory modality, in which greater alpha suppression was elicited when switching to the auditory modality compared to repeating. No switch effect was evident when preparing to attend to visual information (although robust suppression did occur in both conditions). In addition, waning alpha suppression preceded error trials, irrespective of sensory modality. These findings indicate that alpha can be used to monitor the level of preparatory attention to process both visual and auditory information, and support the emerging view that alpha band activity may index a general attention control mechanism used across modalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number119956
StatePublished - Apr 15 2023


  • Alpha suppression
  • Attention control
  • Auditory selective attention
  • EEG alpha power
  • Preparatory control
  • Visual selective attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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