Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The attentional blink (AB) is a deficit in conscious perception of the second of two targets if it follows the first within 200–500 msec. The AB phenomenon has been linked to pre-target oscillatory alpha activity. However, this is based on paradigms that use a rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) stimulus stream in which the targets are embedded. This distracter stream is usually presented at a frequency of 10 Hz and thus generates a steady-state visual-evoked potential (ssVEP) at the center of the alpha frequency band. This makes the interpretation of alpha findings in the AB difficult. To be able to relate these findings either to the presence of the ssVEP or to an effect of endogenously generated alpha activity, we compared AB paradigms with and without different pre-target distracter streams. The distracter stream was always presented at 12 Hz, and power and intertrial phase coherence were analyzed in the alpha range (8–12 Hz). Without a distracter stream alpha power dropped before target presentation, whereas coherence did not change. Presence of a distracter stream was linked to stronger pre-target power reduction and increased coherence, which were both modulated by distracter stream characteristics. With regard to the AB results indicated that, whereas ssVEP-related power tended to be higher when both targets were detected, endogenous alpha power tended to be lower. We argue that the pattern of results indicates that in the pre-target interval several processes act in parallel. The balance between these processes relates to the occurrence of an AB.