Pulsed out of awareness: EEG alpha oscillations represent a pulsed-inhibition of ongoing cortical processing

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Alpha oscillations are ubiquitous in the brain, but their role in cortical processing remains a matter of debate. Recently, evidence has begun to accumulate in support of a role for alpha oscillations in attention selection and control. Here we first review evidence that 8-12 Hz oscillations in the brain have a general inhibitory role in cognitive processing, with an emphasis on their role in visual processing. Then, we summarize the evidence in support of our recent proposal that alpha represents a pulsed-inhibition of ongoing neural activity. The phase of the ongoing electroencephalography can influence evoked activity and subsequent processing, and we propose that alpha exerts its inhibitory role through alternating microstates of inhibition and excitation. Finally, we discuss evidence that this pulsed-inhibition can be entrained to rhythmic stimuli in the environment, such that preferential processing occurs for stimuli at predictable moments. The entrainment of preferential phase may provide a mechanism for temporal attention in the brain. This pulsed inhibitory account of alpha has important implications for many common cognitive phenomena, such as the attentional blink, and seems to indicate that our visual experience may at least some times be coming through in waves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberArticle 99
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume2
Issue numberMAY
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011

Fingerprint

Electroencephalography
Brain
Neural Inhibition
Attentional Blink
Inhibition (Psychology)

Keywords

  • Alpha
  • EEG
  • Oscillation
  • Phase
  • Pulsed-inhibition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

Cite this

Pulsed out of awareness : EEG alpha oscillations represent a pulsed-inhibition of ongoing cortical processing. / Mathewson, Kyle E.; Lleras, Alejandro; Beck, Diane M.; Fabiani, Monica; Ro, Tony; Gratton, Gabriele.

In: Frontiers in Psychology, Vol. 2, No. MAY, Article 99, 01.12.2011.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

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